Infrastructures of several villages in Lechkhumi region, Georgia, are not developed because of “Namakhvani HPPs cascade” project. The villages have no good roads, gas, sewage system, drinking water at home (only technical water), internet, and pharmacy. Some of them don’t even have any shops, schools, kindergartens, and medical points. These villages are getting empty because of unbearable living conditions and absence of hope of development perspectives. Even several businesses have left, and there are no investments here in employment and regional development.
The road of Qorenishi village
The road og Tvishi village
But here you can reach nature, unique microzones of grapes, mysterious and historical Khvamli Mountain and patriot residents, who are developing their villages themselves opening guesthouses for tourists and developing vineries.
People living in this region have heard about “Namakhvani HPPs cascade” project from the times of Soviet Union. The project has not implemented, but some investors raise this issue from time to time. Several years ago Norwegian “Clean Energy Group” company together with ENKA, a Turkish construction company, started developing “Namakhvani HPPs cascade” construction project. The project was issued positive ecological expertise on EIA of the project in December 2015 by Georgian Ministry of Agriculture and Environment but later technical changes in the project design have been carried out. According to recent project documents, the HPPs cascade will be built on the Rioni River, which flows into the Black Sea.
It will consist of two dams: 57.5 meters high gravitational dam with 88.3 hectares of reservoir area and 86.8 MW capacity and 105 meters high concrete gravitational dam with 510 hectares of reservoir area and 324 MW capacity. The total annual generation of the cascade will be 1.5 billion Kw.h.
Possible impacted villages will be 12: Alpana, Lakhepa, Tvishi, Orkhvi, Qorenishi, Mekvena-Vanischala, Derchi, Bentkoula, Kveda Oncheishi, Zeda Oncheishi, Joneti and Namakhvani.
EcoLur with its colleagues from “Green Alternative” NGO (Georgia) visited several villages which will be impacted by “Namakhvani” HPP cascade construction to find out what the local residents think about the project.
According to the local residents, the main risks of “Namakhvani HPPs cascade” project are as follows:
• Destruction of the Rioni River ecosystem
• landscape change
• landslide activation
• microclimatic change
• loss of unique microzones of grapes used for wineries
• loss of winery and tourism business
• destruction of several villages
• collapse of huge rocks and even historical Khvamli mountain
• increase in humidity
• increase in health problems
• risks for life safety
Residents of Alpana village said that they don’t want this project to be implemented because of “Lajanuri” HPP which was constructed in 1962 near Alpana village. It took 60% of agricultural lands in the village.
The reservoir of "Ladzhanuri" Hydro Power Plant (Photo is taken from www.wikipedia.org web site)
The vegetables and fruit in the village are not even enough for villagers’ needs, they buy them also from Kutaisi. The residents said that “Lajanuri” HPP dam causes fog, which damages their grapes. “If we have another reservoir here, we will have fog more often here. Even now we have high humidity and it is difficult to breathe. And it will raise more and it will be impossible to live here… The village is located in a landslide zone and the reservoir will activate landslide processes…. We have given our lands for one HPP, for Georgia’s energy needs. We don’t want any other hydropower plant here. It is enough,” the residents said.
In Alpana village
Korenishi, Orkhvi and Tvishi villages are located within the micro zone for Tsolikauri vineyard. Here the main occupation of the residents is wineries, agriculture, and tourism. The most expensive species of grapes in Georgia grow here, and the famous wine brands in Georgia like Tvishi are also located here.
On the one hand, the government of Georgia gives grants for the development of winemaking in these villages, on the other hand, invites the investors to construct “Namakhvani” HPPs cascade that will harm winemaking.
“For about 200 years my family is engaged in winemaking. I want to expand the winemaking in my village and develop tourism. It is an amazing place. We don’t want to lose this microclimate and this unique microzone,” Levani Khmelidze said, a resident of Qorenishi village.
If “Namakhvani HPP cascade project” comes true, some territories of Korenishi village will be flooded. “This village is situated at the foot of the Khvamli Mountain. Several years ago one Japanese specialist advised us not to let the construction of Namakhvani HPP. He said that Khvamli Mountain may collapse. Landslide processes will activate and we will lose our village. We don’t need an HPP, we need a good road”, another Qorenishi villager said.
Tvishi village will be situated between two reservoirs of “Namakhvani” HPP cascade. Here the huge rocks create a unique microzone for vineyards. Tvishi’s some residents, want HPP to be constructed, because of working places for youth, for compensation, but others, especially the owners of wineries are against.
Revazi Nemsiveridze has come from Kutaisi to Tvishi to develop winery here. He has received a grant from the government for this purpose.
His wine is one of the best wines in Georgia. He together with his son showed us their diplomas and certificates, which they have been granted in the competitions and awards given by the Georgian government.
“It will be difficult, even impossible to grow grapes here after HPP construction, as the microclimate will be changed. We suggested HPP company insure our vineyards, but they refused saying to wait for five years, if HPP negative impact on vineyards is confirmed, at that time they will insure the vineyards…We asked them about our benefit in case of HPP construction, they didn’t answer”,- Revazi Nemsiveridze said.
“…Our rocks are not strong. Stones constantly get cut off. We are afraid that HPP reservoirs will increase the humidity, which will promote rock destruction, and there will be a disaster for the region,” the locals said.
Orkhvi village is located on the underground water. “If we have a reservoir here, the level underground waters will rise, and it will be impossible to live here,” the local people said.
The residents of Mekvena village live in fear and expectations. They know that in case of HPP cascade project implementation, the village will be flooded. According to the locals, they even don’t repair their houses, because the representatives of HPP’s company warned them they won’t pay compensation for the repairs. “The representatives of HPP Company have not even mentioned if which territories of the village would be flooded…They promised us to build a new road in another place. Why do we need a new road, if the village will be displaced? This region provides organic vegetables and fruit for Kutaisi. The old capital of Georgia will also suffer from this project implementation,” the local said.
Maka Suladze, who is the owner of “Kera” guesthouse in Mekvena village, sees the future of the village in tourism development. “We have amazing nature here. We can develop tourism, alpinism, and green pharmacy. I feel my responsibility to protect this nature for future generation and to develop tourism in my village,” she said.
Maka Suladze with her children
Several months ago Norwegian “Clean Energy Group” company closed its office in Tvishi and left, but it doesn’t calm people down. They continue to expect that one day the issue of “Namakhvani” HPPs cascade construction will be raised and they will have to fight for the safety of their lives, their homeland, their ancestral lands, the history, and culture of their villages, their unique microzones of grapes.
13:57 August 06, 2019