709 trees were taken down in Tbilisi in 2016
Overall 709 trees were cut down in Tbilisi with the City Hall’s permission, including 500 trees with damaged status and 209 – with healthy status, according to the 2016 report, published by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) NGO.
The environmentalists point to a 5-fold increase in the number of damaged trees, which, in the opinion, is doubtful. For example, only 36 out of the total 946 trees that were cut down in 2013 were the damaged ones. In the environmentalists’ opinion, the City Hall is granting a damage tree status to the healthy trees too, in order to facilitate tree falling by construction companies and avoid the public protest.
Most of the trees in Tbilisi are cut down exactly on the construction companies’ demand. The City Hall is in charge of issuance of a corresponding tree felling permit. As it is pointed out in 392 out of the total permits issued in 2013-2016, the tree felling permission was issued exactly in connection with the construction works.
Protest rallies at this or that construction site have become a commonplace in Tbilisi. The environmentalists and public figures are protesting against tree felling. Dozens of such rallies were organized in the capital last year.
Tree felling procedure may be further simplified this year, since one of the hugest construction companies – ‘m2’, has addressed Georgian lawmakers with the initiative to lift the construction companies’ obligation to compensate for cutting down dried-up trees.
“This initiative creates a risk of corruption. A construction company may enter into a deal with the City Hall official, declare the healthy trees as ‘dried-up’ ones and cut them down without any problem,” says Giorgi Khatiashvili, the IDFI analyst.
The environmentalists have been long pointing to unfair granting of ‘damaged’ status to the trees.
Tbilisi City Hall’s proceeds from issuance of tree felling permits totaled GEL1,947,282 in 2011-2016.