Mtkvari Cascade Supplants Beshik Haya
02 February, 2012
Mtkvari Cascade Supplants Beshik Haya

To save the Mtkvari River, one of the key arteries of Georgia, flowing from Turkey, Georgia and Turkey will implement a joint Mtkvari Cascade on Georgian-Turkish territory instead of Beshik Haya hydropower plant cascade designed to be deployed on the Mtkvari head in Turkey that might change the Mtkvari bed.

The Mtkvari River, which divides Tbilisi into two parts and is viewed as a symbolic attribute to Georgian capital as the Thames is to London or the Seine - to

Paris, will flow just as it used for centuries. Georgian government promised it after the meeting of Georgian and Turkish energy ministers in Tbilisi on January 20, 2012 in the frames of Georgian-Turkish energy conference. To protect the Mtkvari River, Georgian government reached an agreement with the Turkish side to construct Mtkvari Cascade consisting of three Hydro Power Plants (HPP) on Georgian-Turkish border-adjacent territory instead of construction of  Beshik Haya hydropower plant cascade in the Turkish province of Ardagan at the Turkish-Georgian border, which could affect the Mtkvari bed.
One HPP of the new project will be constructed at Turkish territory and two-on Georgian. Other details of the project are not disclosed as of yet as far as the technical side of the project is still under vision, Mariam Valishvili, Deputy Energy Minister, said in the interview with Georgian Journal. However, the key principle that the river Mtkvari will be untouched is a final decision.
“We have achieved the principal agreement that the Mtkvari bed will not change and a joint project will be developed on Georgian-Turkish border instead. The consent is of verbal character as of yet but will be officially written and signed after technical details are agreed,” Valishvili elaborated.
Starting December of 2011 Georgian green watchdogs and experts hailed Georgian government that it has been implementing a latent negotiation on construction the Beshik Haya belived to be hazardous to Mtkvari and Georgian ecology.  
The Beshik Haya project entailed the alteration of the Mtkvari river bed so that the river would flow through the territory of Turkey instead of Georgia and the water flow would be diverted from Mtkvari into the Tchorokhi  [also a shared Turkish-Georgian river] of the Black Sea basin. Eventually, the Mtkvari water would be flowing into the Black Sea instead of Caspian as it presently does thus causing water deficiency in eastern Georgia, Giorgi Gachechiladze, Head of Georgian Green Party, assured.
According to him, although Georgia is not a water deficient country 75% of its water resources come with the west Georgia and only 25% on the east key artery of which is the Mtkvari. Alteration of the river bed might undermine sanitary and irrigation system in this part of the country and give a huge impact on agriculture and economy ultimately, Gachechiladze feared.
According to data provided by Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN), the mean annual liquid runoff of the River Mtkvari at the Turkish-Georgian border constitutes roughly 33 m3. Through the confluence of its tributaries, the mean Mtkvari water runoff reaching Tbilisi on an annual basis amounts to 230 m3 which in case of the implementation of the Beshik Haya project would be reduced to approximately 200 m3,  particularly in the summer months and affect crop yields in Tbilisi adjacent districts dependant on  Mtkvari alone.
However Irakli Macharashvili, Head of Green Alternative NGO, questions relevance of replacement of Beshik Haya by the recently agreed Mtkvari Cascade project as nobody provides with detailed information how the presumable economic and ecologic impact of both projects balances each other. According to him, the core problem is non-transparency that characterizes all the HPP construction projects and the lack of Strategic Impact Assessment that defines HPP development in civilized world.
“For more than a year Georgian government has been negotiating [the Beshik Haya project] with Turkish authority and this information was regularly covered by Turkish media while we learned of it only after  Turkish PM came here and told his Georgian peer that talks on joint utilization of Georgian energy system with Turkey are on,” he told GJ.
“We did not disclose details of talks with Turkish government for they were quite hard and as soon as an agreement was achieved we disclosed its details,” Valishvili explained.
But Macharashvili requires clearer explanation why the newly agreed Mtkvari cascade project is better than Beshik Haya. Macharashvili doubts that the Beshik Haya aimed to take about 25-35% of water at Mtkvari origin that might destroy the river as severely as forecasted by some experts for many tributaries joining Mtkvari starting Turkish border to Tbilisi replenish the river sufficiently.
“Who can say that the newly agreed project is less dangerous than the rejected Beshik Haya? Georgia has no Strategic Impact Assessment that defines construction of any HPP and projects are not available for us to have a look and discuss,” he said adding that he never rules out that the upcoming HPP construction deployment throughout Georgia can also be a part of deal between Georgian and Turkish governments to reimburse Beshik Haya failure as Turkish investments prevail in Georgian energy sector. According to Georgian Prime Minister about USD1 billion is supposed to be invested in Georgian energy sector in coming years, and the bigger part of up to 40 agreements concluded on construction of HPPs in Georgia come with Turkish investors. 
“Talks on Beshik Haya started more than a year ago and who knows whether or not government agreed to allow Turkish side to construct other HPPs on Georgian territory in exchange to the rejected project for most investors in HPPs construction are Turkish. And who can guarantee that construction of many smaller HPPs instead of the one rejected project is less dangerous while there is no proper assessment of impact these HPPs may have on ecology?” Macharashvili asks. 
Valishvili argues that based on recent researches smaller projects are optimal and attraction of resources from international financial institutions is easier to small HPPs.

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