Enguri

Khaishi – A public debate over the fate of the Khudoni dam <http://bankwatch.org/our-work/projects/hydropower-development-georgia>

in western Georgiaturned tense today as locals opposing the project were intimidated by authorities and the project developer, Transelectrica <http://www.transelectrica.com/> LTD. Despite the threats, villagers in Khaishi turned out in significant numbers to the consultation to express their opposition to the project.

Today’s public hearing is part of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment procedure that must be completed before the 700 megawatt, USD

1.2 billion project can be implemented. The debate was attended by Georgia’s deputy energy minister Ilia Eloshvilli, Transelectrica representatives, and locals from Khaishi. (Photos are available

at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bankwatch/sets/72157635584455743/)

The Khudoni dam project is one of over 40 hydropower plant projects shaping up in Georgiatoday. Authorities argue that the country needs more dams to meet domestic electricity needs, even though the country is already a net exporter of electricity.

Over 2,000 indigenous Svans <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svan_people>

would be displaced if the project goes ahead.

Transelectrica, an international company created to invest in Georgia’s energy sector and registered in the Virgin Islands, bought the land where the Svan homes are located for one dollar from the Georgian state.

The land sale was possible because Svans do not hold property rights to their land, and in recent years local authorities have prohibited Svans from registering their property.

Bankwatch representatives in Khaishi today were told how, one day before the consultations, the deputy head of the regional police department and the Transelectrica director present in the village warned locals not to put up posters critical of the project or protest against it. Before the consultations began today, an unprecedented police presence was visible in front of the municipality building where the debate took place.

Despite this, villagers came out in important numbers to protest the project and demand their lands back.

“The company and authorities here are working too closely together for locals not to suspect some wrongdoing,” comments Dato Chipashvili, Bankwatch Georgian campaigner. “People were not allowed by officials to register their land, which made it easier for the company to purchase it for one dollar. This and the fact that apart from tax money there are no real benefits from this dam project make us all suspect that corruption is involved.”

The Khudoni dam was designed by the Soviet Union and construction began in 1979. Fierce protests by locals and members of the pro-independence movement convinced authorities to halt construction works in 1989.

However, successive post-Soviet Georgian governments once again began looking for investors for the Khudoni project. In 2005, the World Bank approved a technical assistance grant for Khudoni to prepare a host of preliminary studies, environmental impact assessments and a resettlement action plan,which further stimulated the Georgian government to proceed with the project.

„The Khudoni dam is not needed in Georgia, it would only profit the companies that will export the electricity,” adds Chipashvili. „If our authorities are indeed interested in the well being of people like those in Khaishi, they would offer support for the construction of local, micro power plants that are capable of generating cheap electricity to power the community.”

For more information about the Khudoni and other hydropower plant plans in Georgia watch this film:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bD7adlLdc-0

Contacts:
Dato Chipashvili
Bankwatch/ Green Alternative, Georgia
dchipashvili@greenalt.org
+99555827728