Georgian government and opponents of Namakhvani HPP reach partial agreement
Georgian government and activists reach partial agreement on Namakhvani HPP
Activists opposing the construction of the Namakhvani HPP and Georgian authorities have come to a partial agreement as a result of EU-facilitated negotiations. This marks the first agreement since the beginning of protests in October 2020 between the Georgian government and the opponents of the construction of the Namakhvani hydroelectric power plant in western Georgia.
On June 12, the EU Energy Consolidation Dispute Resolution and Negotiation Center organized a meeting between the leaders of the protest and government officials in Tbilisi. The negotiations ended with an agreement on three issues:
- A qualified risk assessment of the construction of the HPP should be carried out.
- At the construction site, in the valley of the Rioni River, all existing fences should be removed and local residents should be able to move freely.
- The government should develop a plan for energy security for the next 10 years.
Remaining issues will be discussed in the upcoming meetings.
Namakhvani HPP is the largest energy project in Georgia since the country’s gaining of independence. Its investment value is 800 million dollars, and construction is carried out by the Turkish company Enka Renewables Ltd in Western Georgia in the Rioni river gorge in the Tskaltubo and Tsageri regions, about 20 kilometers from Kutaisi, the second-largest city in Georgia.
Local residents, supported by many environmentalists, talk about seismic risks, climate change, and serious damage to unique grape varieties and wine production the construction of the HPP might cause. The government argues that the risks are greatly exaggerated, and the construction of new hydroelectric power plants is urgently needed for Georgia to ensure its security and energy independence.
“We hope that by next week we will see that the government and the police have taken concrete steps to enable local residents to move freely and exercise their right to protest”, said Dirk Buschle, Deputy Director of the EU Energy Community and Chairman of the Center for Dispute Resolution and Negotiations.
The next issue that will be addressed during the negotiations will be the suspension of the work of the Turkish company Enka, – Varlam Goletiani, one of the leaders of the protest against the construction of the Namakhvani HPP told reporters.
He also said that the representatives of the ministries who attended the meeting promised to apply to the prosecutor’s office with a request to release the detained activists.
“We need to stop the arrests if we want the process to move to a peaceful format”, Goletiani said.
Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development David Tvalabeishvili positively assessed the fact that the parties reached an agreement on several issues and decided to continue negotiations on the construction of the Namakhvani hydroelectric power station. He said he would forward the request to the prosecutor’s office about the detained activists.
The representative of the project’s main investor, the Turkish company Enka, was not present at the meeting. The meeting organizers decided that at the first stage, negotiations should be carried out between the government and the protesters. Enka representatives were invited to attend as observers.