Svaneti Locals Protest Against HPP Construction
By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, April 2
Local population from Georgia’s Mestia, a town in Upper Svaneti, are protesting against the construction of Mestiachala Hydro Power Plant (HPP), claiming it will destroy unique nature and historical heritage of Svaneti.
The protesters have blocked the construction area and refuse to let the heavy equipment pass and continue the construction works.
The situation became tense when the local police and the special force unit arrived at the site, urging the protesters to leave.
However, Svan people refuse to terminate protest rallies, adding the mobilization of the police makes the situation worse.
On Saturday the First Deputy Interior Minister of Georgia, Kakha Sabanadze arrived in Mestia to negotiate with the demonstrators, however, as the locals report, the sides could not reach any agreement, as the authorities are not going to suspend the construction of the HPP.
Svaneti residents have been protesting against the construction of HPPs for several months.
In early March, 17 communities of Svaneti released a joint statement, saying they are against of building any dams in the region.
“We categorically and eventually prohibit the construction of HPPs in all Svaneti, also gold production and other harmful and destructive works that damages intangible cultural heritage of Svaneti! From now on, dams will not be built in Svaneti, including Khudoni HPP, Nenskra HPP, Mestiachala HPP and other 50 HPPs planned in upper Svaneti,” the statement of the locals reads, addressing the Parliament Speaker, the Public Defender, diplomatic corps and the international organizations.
According to the Ministry of Energy, Galt & Taggart, along with the Austrian company RP Global, is building a dam on the Mestiachala river through a specially created company Svaneti Hydro. The ministry says it will be a 30-megawatt hydro power plant that generates more than 100 million kWh of power annually.
Svaneti Hydro has responded to the protesters, saying the HPP is environment-friendly and very safe HPP, which uses only the energy of the river.
The company claims that the construction works have been underway for a year and no one has been against of it until now.
“Only a group of 10-15 people is against of the HPP. We met them in summer and answered all of their questions but they do not want to understand. Now they have started provocations and blocked the movement of the transport,” Sopo Natroshvili, Head of Svaneti Hydro public relations office stated.
Another HPP project that has also been protested several times by locals is Nenskra, 280 MW hydroelectric power plant, implemented by Nenskra Hydro, created in 2015 as a result of cooperation between the Korean Water Resources Corporation - K-Water and Georgia’s state-led Partnership Fund.