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Rally to be held in Tbilisi on May 23 against Namakhvani HPP

By Nika Gamtsemlidze
Monday, April 26
‘Rioni Gorge Guards’, a group of people protesting the construction of Namakhvani HPP, held rallies in different cities across Georgia on April 24.

The protest started in the village Gumati, where those against the construction have been holding rallies. The organizers then moved the protest to Kutaisi, where they blocked traffic on one of the main streets, Chavchavadze Avenue.

Supporters of the cause also gathered in Batumi, Kobuleti, Zugdidi, Poti, Pankisi gorge, Bolnisi, Rustavi, Lanchkhuti, Tskaltubo, Lentekhi and Kazbegi.

“We have the same problem. The works here have been halted due to our protests, but they have not yet refused to build the HPP. We support and fully share the demands of the Rioni gorge defenders. If necessary, we will go to Imereti and take part in rallies on the spot. The government must understand once and for all that it must listen to the people,” Temur Tsatiashvili from Pankisi told RFE/RL.

The protests followed the statement from the Government regarding the demands of the protestors.

According to the government's decision, a 9-12-month moratorium on the construction has been imposed to allow for the revision of environmental, geological, and seismological assessments.

“Presently, the company will only continue preparatory infrastructural work under the project's initial phase, in compliance with the applicable construction permit,” reads the statement.

Additionally, the Government promised to reduce the number of law-enforcement officers on the ground. Furthermore, the statement reads that additional barriers will be removed from the territory adjacent to the Namakhvani HPP construction site to allow protesters to hold rallies.

Varlam Goletiani, one of the protest organizers against the Namakhvani HPP, said that the protestors' key demands were the freedom to return to Namakhvani and set up tents there, as well as the termination of preparatory works by the company ‘Enka.’

The April 24 rallies were held because the demands of the protestors were not met.

According to Goletiani, a large-scale protest rally will be held in Tbilisi on May 23, and the protests will be held indefinitely in the capital until all demands are met. He explained that the date was chosen to allow for the upcoming Easter celebrations to pass peacefully.

The ‘Rioni gorge guards’ have been protesting for almost six months against the planned construction of a 433-megawatt Namakhvani HPP in the Rioni Valley because they do not consider the project to be properly justified and believe it would cause significant environmental damage.