Namakhvani HPP – ‘dam of death’ or critical energy security?
Construction of hydroelectric power plants in Western Georgia
JAMnews presents below a film by Elene Asatiani about the inhabitants of the gorge along the Rioni River, who have been opposing the construction of a hydroelectric power station in Western Georgia for more than four months.
Turkey’s largest construction company ENKA began the construction project of the Namakhvan HPP at the end of October 2020. At the same time, local residents and civil activists set up tents in the village of Joneti, Tskhaltubo district, and began to demand that the work be stopped immediately and that the equipment be removed from the gorge.
The activists also filed a lawsuit in court, where they are trying to challenge the permission for the construction of the power plant, which the Georgian government issued to the Turkish company.
Largest hydroelectric project since independence
If the Namakhvani hydroelectric power station is nevertheless built, it will be the largest energy project in independent Georgia since the acquisition of its statehood after secession from the Soviet Union.
The investment cost of the project is $800 million. The Turkish company Enka Riniebels Ltd plans to build a hydroelectric power station in Western Georgia in the Rioni River gorge, in the municipalities of Tskaltubo and Tsageri.
The Namakhvani HPP cascade includes two HPPs – Tvishi-HPP with an installed capacity of 100 MW, which will be 60 meters high, and Namakhvani-Joneti with an installed capacity of 333 MW, which will be 111 meters. The total capacity is 433 MW. Annual output is 1,500 GWh.
Why could the construction of a hydroelectric power station on Rioni be a disaster?
- The hydroelectric power station will completely flood the valley and endanger the existence of 18 villages. Therefore, local residents call the project “the dam of death”.
- The dam will stand just a few kilometers from the second largest city in Georgia, Kutaisi.
If the dam is damaged, a 34-meter wave could reach the city in 19 minutes.
- Environmentalists say the project is so ambitious that its impact on the environment has not yet been properly studied.
- An environmental impact report prepared by the Gamma Consulting group states that the implementation of the Nizhni Namakhvani project alone will sacrifice a large amount of arable land, five villages will be flooded, and about three hundred families will be relocated.
- The project is accompanied by serious seismic risks. According to experts of the organization Green Alternative, Namakhvani will not withstand an earthquake even with a magnitude of 5 points. Meanwhile, a few kilometers from the city, in Racha, in 1991 there was a magnitude-7 earthquake.
- In addition to significantly changing the nature in the region, the hydroelectric power station will also change the culture of the region – tourism, cultural heritage, winemaking.
Why does the government want the dam built?
The Georgian government fully supports the project. Economy and Sustainable Development Minister Natia Turnava calls environmental concerns “exaggerated”.
Turnava visited the construction site of the hydroelectric power station several times and said that “this construction is one of the largest projects in the modern history of Georgia, a great contribution to the energy independence and security of the country.”