Ongoing BTC construction abuses provoke fresh complaint to project backer

A landslide affected house in Dgvari, May 2004. BTC construction is likely to cause further deterioration.

Ongoing problems with the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline have led Georgian environmental group Association ‘Green Alternative’ to file an official complaint to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private lending arm. The complaint is made on behalf of 44 citizens throughout Georgia who have been or are in danger of being adversely affected by the controversial pipeline’s construction.

The IFC’s USD 250 million loan to the BP-led BTC project includes the provision of “leadership in designing a framework and oversight mechanism for the development and operation of the projects in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner.”

Green Alternative’s complaint clearly reveals violations of a number of IFC/World Bank policies, including those on environmental assessment, involuntary resettlement and public participation, as well as the unwillingness of the BTC Company (BTC Co) to implement responsibilities and obligations undertaken to mitigate the impact of the pipeline construction for affected communities.

Manana Kochladze of Association Green Alternative said, “BTC Co has a so called grievance mechanism but throughout different regions in Georgia residents are finding that the mechanism doesn’t work and that the company is cutting corners. The pipeline is plagued with corruption, extortion, lack of information disclosure and poor community relations between BTC Co and affected residents. It’s no wonder that the number of people adversely affected by the pipeline is increasing.”

With no adequate grievance mechanism, affected communities have instead been protesting peacefully along the pipeline route. BTC Co’s reaction has been to try to secure the “high level government assistance to publicize that blocking the pipeline right of way is contrary to the national interest and may result in prosecution”. As a result special armed forces and police have been brought in to deal forcibly with the peaceful demonstrations.

Nino Gujaraidze of Association Green Alternative commented, “The use of special forces against peaceful demonstrators who are already suffering severe economic hardship and are trying to protect their families and homes is not how to implement the BTC project in a socially sustainable manner. For affected citizens there are unfortunately many barriers to launching legal actions in the courts, so this complaint to the IFC Ombudsman is a last resort in their search for justice.”

With this current complaint, Association Green Alternative calls on the IFC’s Ombudsman and Board of Directors to take serious steps to review and remedy the systemic failure of BTC Co to adhere to World Bank Safeguard policies. The IFC should protect the human and socio-economic rights of citizens, as well as set up an independent recourse mechanism that will help to resolve ongoing disputes between affected people and BTC Co.

Manana Kochladze
Nino Gujaraidze
Association Green Alternative