Nongovernmental organisations and public activists are gathering in front of the local office of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in the Georgian capital today to express their concerns regarding EBRD involvement in the construction of the Baku- Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline.
The protest's main message is "No public money for human rights abuse, corruption and environmental destruction", and participants are carrying signs calling for the project to respect the environmental, cultural and socio- economic needs of the country. Specifically, the grassroots activists are asking the EBRD not to finance the BTC project as long it continues to be in conflict with Georgian law and fails to include concrete plans for reducing poverty and increasing democracy in Georgia.
On the environmental front, protesters are focusing on the fact that the pipeline would cross sources of drinking water, including the Borjomi valley, home to a thriving bottled water industry. "No civilised country in the world would allow a pipeline to run through its drinking water protection zones," says Manana Kochladze from the CEE Bankwatch Network, adding, "The drinking water reserves in the Tsalka region are an alternative water source for Tbilisi, a city with a population of more than 1,5 million people, and any oil spill in Borjomi would leave the local people without drinking water. To run a pipeline through those areas is madness."
The protesters also protest that the Georgian government violated its own environmental laws in approving the project, and that EBRD support at this point would only legitimise these violations. "This sets a dangerous precedent, " says Nino Gujaraidze, executive director of Green Alternative, a Georgian NGO. "A European institution like the EBRD should promote democratic practices."
The participants sent a letter to the EBRD's executive director, calling on the Bank to complete an independent review of the pipeline's Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA). EBRD funding should be conditioned on the review's findings and on improvement of the project's quality through public consultations according to the EBRD's best practices.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline would run 1750 kilometres from Baku, Azerbaijan, across Georgia and to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean. When completed, the pipeline is expected to carry roughly one million barrels per day.
Notes for editors:
Also today, in London 100 campaigners will build a 150-metre pipeline outside the London headquarters of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to protest against UK taxpayer funding for the proposed Baku-Ceyhan pipeline. The mock pipeline has been painted with slogans opposing the project (such as 'No Public Money for New Oil') in English, Kurdish and Georgian and will be accompanied by Kurdish dancers and a belly dancer. The pipeline will travel to the BP office at Finsbury Circus. BP is the company leading the project.
12.40 GMT – outside the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Bishopsgate, EC2. The pipeline will be built outside the EBRD and a section of pipeline will be presented to the EBRD.
13.10 GMT – the pipeline will arrive at BP's office at Britannic House, Finsbury Circus, EC2, where a second section of pipeline will be presented to BP.