NGOs Call for In-Depth Analysis of Forest Management Legislation
15 September, 2011
NGOs Call for In-Depth Analysis of Forest Management Legislation

Georgian environmental-friendly non-governmental watchdogs find the underway draft  project for Forest Code and the lease agreement premature and incompetent to deal with the national resources. 

Georgian non-governmental organizations propose to Georgian government to make the draft project for Forest Code and lease agreement more open to public discussion and not to jump on decisions that may have an irretrievable evil to the country like Georgia 40% of which is made of forests. The point is only 10-15% of it can be

used for economic activity as Georgia is a highland region and natural disasters, risks including landslips and floods are quite high.

On September 4, 2011 Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources of Georgia (MENRG) disseminated the drafts of the Forest Code and the lease agreement and the electronic versions of the documents were sent to the representatives of the following organizations: World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Green Alternative, the Greens Movement of Georgia, the Centre for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia (CSRDG), the Aarhus Centre Georgia, and Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN). Ministry also informed that the discussion date was scheduled by September 15, 2011. Papers were presented in English.

The manner of dissemination of draft projects, as well as preliminary appointment of discussion date without agreeing with the NGOs, as well as the content of papers made  non-governmental watch-dogs to draw out alarming conclusions that inclusion of publicity in decision-making process to  make things transparent  was a mere formality.

Moreover, the unclear language of the draft project creates some doubt that the draft documents are copied and the problems of the country are not considered.

The restricted participation of the Georgian experts in the draft documents is obvious. None of the Georgian language legal documents is considered in the papers. The authors of the draft documents did not consult with the representatives of the competent state agencies responsible for environmental and forest issues.

Moreover, the environmentalists worry that the role of parliament, competent state agencies in management of natural resources as well as the international and national norms and standards ensuring public participation in decision-making process are all underestimated.

Based on the above risks the green watch-dogs predict that the underway forestry reform will be implemented in an accelerated manner without proper public, as well as parliament and state agencies  inclusion  that will threaten natural resources, economy and ecology as well as the development of the regions and interests of the population of the country.

“The government will not take into account the comments, remarks and recommendations of the public and international organizations,” NGOs fear.

The civil society of Georgia hailed Georgian authorities to ensure translation of the draft documents and their dissemination among the interested audience and establish the reasonable date of the discussions. NGOs ask all the governmental bodies both at legislative and executive power to immediately request the Georgian version of the draft documents and start their discussion with participation of the public.

The questioned draft projects were presented for discussions to NGOs in response to their statements in this past July that government makes haste and incompetent reforms of forest management.

Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources of Georgia came out with the initiative in July to cancel short-term lease of forests, cancel l5-20 year-long licenses on timbering active prior the reforms and give forests only through 49-year lease. Aleko Khetaguri, Minister of Energy and Natural recourse of Georgia, stated that population will have an opportunity to extract an unlimited amount of timber [up to this change one household could cut 5 cubic meter of timber only] in the areas permitted for cut. However Khetaguri accentuated that all lessees will be obliged to plant three trees instead of one cut tree.

According to Nino Enukidze, Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, population can cut only the trees marked by rangers.

On the other hand leaseholders will be able to exploit any mineral water, deposit or previously unknown minerals in case of discovery on the leased forests territory. 1.8 million hectares of forests are slated for privatization at the moment.

Khetaguri’s statement alarmed environmentalists as the described changes are supposed to make possible, quite simply and without any prior ecological research, to replace forest cutting by another activity, which will be more destructive for the ecosystem. They worry that the new Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources that adopted forest management starting this past spring perceives forests as the means of receiving quick fiscal effect without even discussing the necessity of their conservation and sustainable use.

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