TBILISI/MARCH 12 (The Bulletin) — Apparently bowing to pressure from environmentalists and local residents, the Georgian government suspended work on the construction of its Namakhvani Hydro Power Project.
Natia Turneva, the Georgian economy minister, said that the project had been suspended to allow for extra studies on the “reliability and safety” of the project.
“This is a very important large hydropower plant with an installed capacity of 430 MW. It will bring in $800 million in foreign direct investments,” she said.
This is the line that the government has consistently taken with the project, one of the most controversial energy projects in Georgia.
Police and demonstrators have clashed near the construction site of the Namakhvani HPP on the Rioni River in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains. It is slated to be the largest power plant in Georgia when it is complete, generating 15% of Georgia’s energy.
Ms Turneva said that Georgian experts and institutions would be hired to carry out independent surveys of the impact of the dam on the environment and on local communities and that a $1.5m Rioni Gorge Development Fund would be set up to help people relocate.
The hydropower project, which is being developed in two parts — a Lower Namakhvani HPP (333 MW) and the Upper Namakhvani HPP (100 MW) — is being financed by international donors, including the Norway-based Clean Energy Group, and is being constructed by Enka, Turkey’s largest construction company.
Protesters, who complain about the environmental damage and the forced resettling of people from the area, have blocked access to the site for more than four months. They said that the government couldn’t suspend the project as construction work had not started yet.
— This story was published in issue 475 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on March 15 2021
— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021