How harmless is billionaire Ivanishvili's hobby?
The former Prime Minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, continues to transport perennial trees from the Black Sea coastal areas to be replanted to his new private dendropark in Ureki, a coastal resort in Georgia.
According to various sources, up to 20 trees have already been replanted. The process is ongoing.
A few days ago, a 250-year-old beech, which Ivanishvili had purchased from the Khurmava family in Natanebi village, located in the Ozurgeti region of west Georgia for USD 5 000, failed to withstand the stresses involved in transportation and split through the middle.
Lado Khurmava, who gives classes in painting at a local school, says that Ivanishvili personally visited him to see the tree and liked it right away.
“He was accompanied by foreign experts, who told him the tree would not withstand transportation nor would it adapt to its new soil, but Ivanishvili decided to follow his own mind,” Khurmava said.
Having split into two parts while still in-transit, the 250-year-old beech tree to blocked the road in the city for several days. Later it was cut for firewood.
The residence of Bidzina Ivanishvili in Shekvetili, a Black Sea coastal area, is the place where he decided to create a dendrological park and therefore started collecting trees.
Ivanishvili bought some trees from private residences, though the majority of the perennial trees were rooted out from the state-owned Tsikhisdziri Park.
Environmentalists have voiced their concerns as the process took a critical turn. Rooting out the trees leaves big holes in soil, damaging the area and creating an ecological threat to the surroundings.
“It takes around one hundred years to produce one centimeter of fertile soil. When perennial plants are rooted out, the soil quality suffers,” Irakli Macharashvili, a biologist, told Rustavi-2 TV in an interview.
Macharashvili underlines that under Georgian criminal law, if harm inflicted to the surrounding environment is estimated at over 1000 Lari, a criminal case must be opened. The area, where the trees were rooted out, has apparently suffered even more harm than that.
Gigla Agulashvili, being the minister of environment, has a different opinion on the issue. According to him, the billionaire has not violated the law and therefore, the ministry has not inspected Tsikhisdziri Park. “That will happen if we see any acts of violation,” the minister noted.
Close to Tsikhisdziri, in the coastal resort of Chakvi, dozens of trees were damaged on the state-owned area. through the course of work, a protected coastal dam was damaged, blocking the only road leading to the sea.
Some months ago, in an interview with Imedi TV, Bidzina Ivanishvili confessed that gigantic trees are his weak spot – his hobby.
“It’s my hobby; I like gigantic trees very much,” Ivanishvili said.
A gigantic tulip tree weighing 650 tons was the first to be transported by sea to Ureki. According to various sources, Ureki has seen the replanting of 20 perennial trees. They were transported to the beach by heavy vehicles and then were sent to Ureki on a special barge.
Through the course of transporting perennial trees to the dendropark of the former prime minister:
– Traffic was restricted on Batumi-Kobuleti highway;
– Railroad traffic was interrupted as transportation of these gigantic trees required temporary removal of the rail tracks and cutting the electricity supply;
– Hundreds of smaller trees surrounding the larger perennial trees got damaged, as they were blocking the movement of heavy machinery which carried out the digging and transportation work;
– Concrete roads were made in the forest to support the heavy vehicles;
– In place of the perennial trees, huge holes containing damaged soil remains, of which the soil is impossible to restore.