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Thousands rally in Kutaisi to protest Namakhvani HPP construction

By Nika Gamtsemlidze
Monday, March 1
Thousands of people gathered in the central square of Kutaisi to protest the construction of the Namakhvani Hydro Power Plant. The cascade is planned to be built by Turkish company Enka. The protesters demand that the company be removed from the gorge.

Protestors claim that if the company does not follow the demands of the people, they will continue protests in two weeks, on March 14. Protestors are planning to go to Namakhvani and camp there.

The protests near Namakhvani started 126 days ago. The protesters’ demands have not changed, claiming that the contract with the Turkish company must be terminated.

The Namakhvani Cascade project envisages the construction of two independent HPPs in Rioni Valley: Kvemo Namakhvani HPP (333 mV) and Zemo Namakhvani (100 mV). The annual output of the cascade - 1,500.00 GWh, which represents 12% of annual consumption.

Former President of the country Mikheil Saakashvili posted a special video address on his Facebook page, showing support to protesters in Kutaisi. He said that today, for Georgia, protecting nature, improving the climate, and developing tourism should be of higher priority.

The former president says that today there are many other means of energy production, including wind turbines and solar energy, however, according to him, it is in the interest of Bidzina Ivanishvili to construct Namakhvani HPP.

The Namakhvani HPP cascade is to be built on the Rioni river. The project is worth about $750 million and the cascade should start to operate in 2025-2026.

Activist Varlam Goletiani addressed people at the rally, urging the government of Georgia to retract the “illegal, wrong, and anti-state permission of the project.” Goletiani also noted that the failure of the government to meet the demands would equal greenlighting confrontation between the anti-HPP activists and the police.

He also said that the protestors will not ever get bored of defending their own land. People arrived in Kutaisi yesterday from different parts of the country to protest the construction of the HPP.

The opponents of the project are claiming that the constructions are planned to start without any prior research, which is increasing the risks. They are concerned about the devastating environmental impact for the regions affected, their biodiversity, and cultural heritage.