Georgian Co Investment fund and “Peri” Ltd want to construct “Oni” hydropower cascade on the Rioni River in north-west Georgia with a total installed capacity of 206 MW and an expected annual generation of 766.7 GWh. The project assumes diversion of the Rioni River twice by two diversion tunnels totally 22 km in length for electricity production. The project EIA has not received any permission yet.
The Rioni River is the main river in western Georgia. It originates in the Caucasus Mountains, in the region of Racha and flows west to the Black Sea, entering it north of Poti City.
There are villages which will be impacted with the “Oni” Cascade construction. Their residents oppose the HPP cascade construction. In 2018 they collected more than 5000 signatures against the cascade.
EcoLur with its colleagues from “Green Alternative” NGO (Georgia) visited the villages which will be impacted by hydropower plants.
Residents of Glola village in Racha region are against the construction, as they are sure that it limits tourism development in the region including their village. The income in the village comes from agriculture and tourism.
“Here we have historical monuments, a castle, a monastery from ancient times, we have mineral waters, a mountain with crystal deposit, beautiful nature. Tourism is going to increase here. If “Oni” hydropower plant cascade project comes true, Racha region will die”, people said. They also mentioned that the investors have changed their mind to invest money to build sanatoriums or other tourism infrastructures because of “Oni” cascade.
According to Davit Bichashvili, a resident of Glola, a public meeting was organized in June 2019 with local people concerning “Oni” cascade construction and the representatives of the company couldn’t answer any key questions concerning “Oni” cascade risks to local residents.
The impact of “Oni” cascade will be drastic on Utsera village. The tunnel of the cascade will run above the village and residents are worried about their life safety, because the village is located in a landslide and seismic zone and due to active geological processes, the tunnel of HPP may be damaged and water will wash away and destroy the village.
The other risk is to lose mineral water springs. There are 18 mineral water springs in Utsera, and the residents think that the springs will disappear because of the tunnel construction. “It is a landslide area, seismic zone; they have not evaluated the risks in their project. We need independent expert assessment. Nobody has done it,” said geologist Manana Metreveli, who lives in Utsera village.
There are several guesthouses in Utsera, their owners see the risk of losing their business because of Oni cascade construction. “Tourists will not come here, if Oni Cascade is constructed”, said the owner of one guesthouse.
The tunnel of HPP cascade will pass also above Nigavzebi village. Here the residents also oppose the “Oni” cascade construction. The main reasons for being against are microclimate change, accidents with the tunnel because of earthquakes, losing water and agriculture opportunities. The residents also told that they have asked the people who have existing HPPs in their villages from neighboring regions such as Svaneti and Kazbegi about HPP benefits and no one advised them to have HPP in their region.
In the case of Khuruti village, the tunnel will pass under the village. According to the villagers, nobody informed them about “Oni” cascade project and about risks, only two men visited the village to see landslide area. The residents are against the HPP construction. They mentioned that tunnel construction will activate landslide processes which have already damaged some houses. They said that they need tourism development in Khuruti and not HPPs.
Landslide processes have already damaged some houses in Khuruti village
All visited villages live in poor conditions: they have no drinking water at home, no sewage system, no shops, no pharmacies, no employment, no tourism infrastructures and no good livelihood conditions. According to the residents, local administration of Racha promises good livelihood conditions in case of HPP construction, but local people prefer their nature to “Oni” HPP cascade.
18:19 August 05, 2019