Environmentalists sound alarm bells, but the authorities take no heed" />

Georgia’s billionaire-once-turned-PM continues to ‘entertain himself’ uprooting centenary trees

Environmentalists sound alarm bells, but the authorities take no heed

Georgian billionaire and informal political leader Bidzina Ivanishvili has ordered for another batch of centenary trees on the country’s Black Sea coast to be dug out and replanted miles away in his private botanical park, Rustavi-2 TV channel reports.

A resident of the village of Natanebi told Rustavi-2 that Ivanishvili had paid him 5,000 dollars for the 200-year-old beech in his courtyard, despite a warning by experts it might not survive when replanted.

Presently, arrangements are already under way to move the tree to the botanical park in Shekvetili, a village and sea resort in Georgia’s Guria region. A giant eucalypt in the coastal village of Ureki is about to move to the ex prime minister’s park, too.

Minister of environment Giga Agulashvili said the removals were nothing to worry about, while at the same time admitting that his ministry had yet to inspect the sites from which the trees were uprooted.

Rustavi-2’s video showed the sites devastated, the holes left by the removed trees still waiting to be filled up. The ground is now barren and will remain so for a long time, as it takes at least 100 years for just 1-cm layer of fertile soil to form, according to biologist Irakli Macharashvili. He said the Georgian law warranted a criminal investigation in cases when environmental damages were worth more than 1,000 GEL. And the damages in this case certainly exceeded the sum, he said.

In a coastal town of Chakvi, the journalists tracked down dozens of stumps of the trees that they said had been felled in order to make way for the centenary trees as they were transported to Ivanishvili’s park. They said a dam had been taken down and locals’ access to the sea blocked during the transportation works.

“I love giant trees, they are how I entertain myself,” Ivanishvili said in an interview several months ago.

The transportation of the trees has, on different occasions, seen:

  • the Batumi-Kobuleti highway closed off to traffic for hours on end,
  • train services suspended
  • and sections of the railroad dismantled.
  • As of now, 11 trees in the Ajara and Guria regions have been marked out to travel to Ivanishvili’s park.

An ancient tuliptree – a giant of 650 tons – was the first to move there.

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