Green Alternative’s appeal to the banks and public agencies regarding the violations during the construction of Mtskheta-Stepantsminda-Larsi Road’s Stepantsminda-Gveleti section
Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Prime Minister of Georgia, Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture, National Environmental Agency, Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, Technical and Construction Supervision Agency, Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure, Auditor General of Georgia, Public Defender of Georgia. The organization demanded an immediate response to the significant violations during the construction of the Mtskheta-Stepantsminda-Larsi highway.
With this letter, we would like to draw attention to the significant violations already committed during the construction and operation project of the Mtskheta-Stepantsminda-Larsi highway, Stepantsminda-Gveleti section, and demand an immediate response. On June 13, 2023, the Department of Roads of the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia announced a bidding Link to bidding
for the construction of the section of Mtskheta-Stepantsminda-Larsi road from Stepantsminda – Gveleti road km 0+440 km 4+490 (lot 1). According to the bidding announcement, the donor for the project is the World Bank. According to the bidding documents, “Mtskheta-Stepantsminda-Larsi International Road represents the main road, connecting Georgia to Russia Federation and is a part of E117 European Route and North-South Corridor. The road starts from Mtskheta, from highway Tbilisi-Senaki-Leselidze E60 and ends at the Border of the Russia Federation…. At this stage, the final Design report of the first section Lot-1 of the Stepantsminda – Gveleti road, is presented, which aims preparation of detailed design report for the construction/upgrading of the Stepantsminda-Gveleti road section. It includes the following: Final Detailed Drawings, Scope of Work, Explanatory Note, Specifications, Final Tender Documents, Cost Estimates, Resettlement Action Plan, Final EIA, Initial Land Acquisition, and Resettlement Action Plan (LARP) Stepantsminda-Gveleti Lot-1 length 4.5 km, final design report. Volume 1. Explanatory note, table of volume of works. Contract: E.T. N 41-22, Transproject LLC, March 2023.
The project has not even passed the scoping procedure stipulated by the Environmental Assessment Code, not to mention the Environmental Decision, a mandatory prerequisite for issuing a construction permit and implementing the project. In addition, at both the scoping and environmental decision and construction permit stages, based on relevant studies, the project may require changes or may not be feasible due to significant environmental impacts.
Nevertheless, the Department of the Roads of Georgia decided that the construction project prepared by Transproject LLC and the Environmental and Social Management Plan prepared by Gamma Consulting LLC are enough for bidding announcement.
The bidding documents do not indicate that the project is still in scoping phase and that an environmental decision and/ or a construction permit are yet to be approved. Moreover, the documentation contains false information regarding the following:
- According to the terms of reference Terms of Reference – procurement object: reconstruction/construction of the Stepantsminda-Gveleti section (Lot 1) of international importance (S-3) Mtskheta-Stepantsminda-Larsi highway with a … Continue reading, the supplier must ensure fulfillment/agreement of the conditions defined by the environmental decision (ecological expertise) – as if the project already had an environmental decision.
- Also, according to the Environmental and Social Management Plan Environmental and Social management plan, prepared by Gama Consulting LLC, June 2023, “before starting the work, the winning construction company will be obliged to prepare a detailed site-specific environmental and social management plan and agree with the construction supervisor consultant, which will be finally approved by the Roads Department of Georgia.” Gamma Consulting also does not indicate the need to obtain an environmental decision when describing the competence of the National Environmental Agency.
At the same time, on June 15, 2023, the scoping report prepared by Gamma Consulting LLC was published for public discussion on the website of the National Environmental Agency. This procedure determines the list of information to be obtained and studied for environmental impact assessment (EIA) and the means of reflecting this information in the EIA report. In addition, the applicant must submit the scoping report to the agency as early as possible in planning the activity to identify all possible project alternatives timely, study them, and reveal the most acceptable from the environmental point of view.
It is unclear what content and load this process has when the final environmental impact assessment of the project is ready, the most detailed construction project is prepared (including even the road lighting project and the implementation calendar), and bidding is announced to select the construction company. The Department of the Roads of Georgia is trying to go through the procedure formally and obtain the right to implement the project based on documentation of questionable quality.
In 2017-2018, with financial support from the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, the pre-feasibility and feasibility studies for the Mtskheta-Stepantsminda-Larsi highway were carried out. The road is divided into several sections, of which construction has started only on the Kvesheti-Kobi section (despite many problems). For the Natakhtari-Zhinvali section of the road, the Georgian Road Department submitted such poor documentation to the agency that the environmental decision-making process was relegated to the scoping stage, and the department was asked to prepare the relevant documentation again. Similar problems exist in the project section of the Arsha-Stepantsminda bypass. As per the decision of the National Environment Agency, the process of reviewing the scoping report has been stopped until the documents that meet the requirements of the Act are submitted. The problems with the construction of the Kvesheti-Kobi section are due to the fact that the environmental decision and the construction permits were issued based on insufficient studies and poor-quality documentation. For all these sections, the environmental impact assessment documentation is prepared by Gama Consulting LLC.
If the National Environment Agency resists pressure from the Road Agency and does not make an environmental decision based on poorly prepared documentation, it is unclear what will happen to the successful bidder and who will reimburse the costs of preparing the detailed project and the EIA report in advance.
The most disturbing aspect of this situation is that the Road Department has developed and is trying to implement one of the most difficult sections of the road project of international importance without adequately studying and considering all possible risks to the environment and human health and life. The concern is all the greater given the existing political situation in the region, including Russia’s occupation of 20% of Georgian territories.
Based on all the above, Green Alternative demands:
- Do not allow the funds allocated by the World Bank to be spent on the link road to Russia;
- Cancel the announced tender;
- Ensure that the impact on the environment caused by the implementation of the activities, including on human health and safety, biodiversity and its components, water, air, soil, land, climate, landscape, and protected areas, as well as on cultural heritage or socio-economic factors, is adequately assessed following the requirements of the Environmental Code;
- Examine the purpose and effectiveness of the funds spent on the project and the legality of the expenditure.
|Link to bidding
|Stepantsminda-Gveleti Lot-1 length 4.5 km, final design report. Volume 1. Explanatory note, table of volume of works. Contract: E.T. N 41-22, Transproject LLC, March 2023
|Terms of Reference – procurement object: reconstruction/construction of the Stepantsminda-Gveleti section (Lot 1) of international importance (S-3) Mtskheta-Stepantsminda-Larsi highway with a length of 4.5 km
|Environmental and Social management plan, prepared by Gama Consulting LLC, June 2023