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Audit Agency Claims State Lacks Resources to Avoid Environmental Damage

By Levan Khutsishvili
Thursday, April 5
The State Audit Office published a report covering the period of 2014-2017. The report estimates that existing procedures and resources in the country in order to avoid adverse environmental impacts are insufficient for complex assessment and a reaction to potential ecological risks.

According to the report, procedures used by the Environmental Supervision Department was not efficient in selection of territories with high ecological risk. The system of existing sanctions was not enough for proportional reaction on detected violations. In addition, there was no proper methodological guideline in the audit inspection process.

The audit report also concluded that the existing environmental liability system does not guarantee restoration of the damaged environment because the generated funds from the assessment of environmental damage have not been targeted for environmental restoration purposes:

"Consequently, current practice leads to the elimination of environmental damage. Overall, the shortcomings in minimizing negative impact on nature in the process of mining creates a situation, when environment is not adequately protected, says the document prepared by the State Audit Office.

Audit underscored the shortcomings in licensing conditions and believes that in order to minimize negative impact on nature, licensing process should be more focused on softening the ecological risks, as nowadays, licensing conditions are general and without major mitigation measures in order to reduce negative impact on the environment. Audit believes that some general changes should be made in the licensing procedures.

"Important disadvantages were revealed in the pattern of restoring the license areas. The land is never re-cultivated and the soil cover not restored. Also, after the expiration of the license period, the condition of the area is not checked, "reads the audit report.

The Audit Service claims that the state does not have information on the condition of the expired and abandoned license areas. As for the compensation of negative impact, certain measures have been taken :payment of timber compensation fee, financing environmental measures by licensing companies.

According to the audit report, activities of mining companies have negative impact on environment and two main problems are identified: abandoned deposits and unsustainable mountain mining practice.

"For example, environmental audit of large-scale industrial enterprises in 2015 in Kvemo Kartli, showed that the activities of companies in the whole region had a significant negative impact on the environment. The audit has identified surface and groundwater pollution caused by erosion of minerals and pollution of the soil by toxic substances. During drilling and blasting with heavy equipment, the air was polluted with dust, poisonous gas was released.Rock layers were damaged and soil degradation occurred. Due to the failure of the restoration process, the territory was deserted. The eradication of the living environment has shown the migration and mortality of the local fauna, the disorder of the ecosystem and the extinction, " says the document.

Besides the analyzing the situation, report provides a list of recommendations that can positively contribute in solution of identified problems. Among the recommendations are:

1. Importance of involvement of professionals in order of assessment/description of the ecological situations and risks;

2. Necessity of activities to spread information about licensing processes;

3. Changes in law for establishing the efficient sanctions system for damaging the nvironment;

4. Creation of methodological guideline for inspectors;

5. Creation and implementation of efficient system and changes in law for monitoring and re-cultivation of license areas.