Goderdzi Ski Resort Development Infringes Rights of Landowners
12 July, 2012
Goderdzi Ski Resort Development Infringes Rights of Landowners

Construction of the new ski resort at Goderdzi Pass in mountainous Ajara infringes rights of local landowners.

 

As soon as Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia, discovered that Goderdzi Pass in mountainous Ajara has an excellent potential to be developed into a ski resort, the idea was destined to become a reality.

Construction of a new ski resort near the Goderdzi Pass, namely in the Zankebi settlement, started in August of 2011, while the construction spot was registered as a state property only

in October [later the territory was handed to the Government of Ajara Autonomous Republic] without sending any prior notification to actual landowners of the territories in question, who have no other income source and dwellings except the ones on the said lands.

Meantime the Administration elaborated details and financing of Goderdzi ski resort, GEL 13 million was allocated from the state budget of 2012-2013, in May of 2012 the figure was increased to GEL 18 million and the ski resort scheduled to receive the first guest by the end of 2012; In June Austrian government-supported UniCredit Bank Austria AG disbursed a preferential credit of EUR 10. 9 million to fund the skiing infrastructure in Goderdzi Pass.

At this time, without any prior consent of the landowners, a new road is being built on the territory of the Zankebi settlement, which goes through some of the locals’ homesteads, Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia) informed in its special research on July 5, 2012.

In a word the Presidential project goes ahead smoothly while nobody took care of about 70 families in Zankebi, whose lands are envisaged as potential construction sites for the project and who are concerned whether or not their lands will be expropriated without compensation.

“According to the locals, these lands are their only source of income and many of them make their living solely off them. In addition to the inability to register these lands, locals have not been given precise information on any future plans of the Government. In particular, they do not know exactly what kind of work is going to be performed on their land, who is going to be affected by this work, and whether they will be given any compensation,” TI Georgia reports.

These families have cultivated the said lands for years without registration. In 1998 these lands were transferred to the local residents; however, most of them could not register them. The landowners continue farming without any interruption and still pay land taxes.

According to TI Georgia, when the plans of constructing a new ski resort were announced, locals tried to register their houses and land (including homesteads) as private property but were refused at the Public Registry under the reason that these lands were already registered as state property.

Having researched the case TI Georgia found out that Government of Ajara and investor are willing to consider interests of afflicted locals and compensate any inflicted damages.  According to Givi Kedelidze, Deputy Head of the Khulo Municipality [local authority], only preliminary works are being performed at the moment, and the compensation will be settled afterwards with the help of the Ajarian Government and the construction company.

Vazha Diasamidze, former head of the Ajara Tourism Department and Director of LTD Goderdzi Resorts that carried out construction of the ski-resort project and is owned by Ajara government, believes  low awareness among the locals was caused by the fact that the questioned project implementation decision was taken in a rush, earlier than it had initially been planned. Therefore, they could not manage to notify locals in advance, at least to prevent them from farming their arable plots which might be potentially used for construction. All local inhabitants will be provided with alternative land plots and respective compensation, he promises.

The resort construction project has been drafted and will be implemented step by step from 2012 to 2015. In 2012, according to the project, 18 local inhabitants are to be resettled and each will receive another land plot according to their choice and be reimbursed for expenses. The company will also try to give locals enough time to harvest their crops.

TI Georgia plans close monitoring of the process and hopes that the successful realization of the Goderdzi Pass resort project will not be achieved at the expense of the local population’s property rights.

“We believe that communication with the local community and proper information on the subject of property related to their ownership/usage should be conducted at an early stage; not only before the start of the work, but also prior to the drafting of the project. It is vital that the process of compensation to the community members be carried out transparently,” TI Georgia experts say.

Despite the lack of information and infringed interest Zankebi locals have repeatedly announced that they do not mind constructing and developing their remote high mountainous village been forgotten for years into resort.

“Nothing has been made on the Goderdzi Pass before. Nobody remembered us for years. Shall something be made and built here and, if it is necessary and there is no other way, let it be at the expense of our lands. We will only support and help building this resort,” says one of the locals.

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