CENN gives recommendations to Georgian government on road constructions in remote highlands
05 March, 2018
CENN gives recommendations to Georgian government on road constructions in remote highlands
CENN is a non-governmental organisation working to protect their environment fostering sustainable development throughout the South Caucuses. They specialise in a number of areas including combating climate change, sustainable management of resources, building and developing healthy and prosperous climate resilient communities, and empowering women and girls to participate in creating inclusive solutions. Since 1998, CENN has worked with local communities, national governments through to region-wide initiatives to engender green growth at every level. CENN implements joint initiatives with equal participation
across Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to find viable solutions to local and regional environmental challenges.

Non-governmental organization CENN working to protect environment fostering sustainable development throughout the South Caucuses releases special report concerning planned construction of motor ways in Georgia’s eastern mountainous region. The report provides critical approach to the planned constructions and offers helpful advices to Georgian government to avoid fatal results.

According to the recommendation report, government of Georgia has made a decision to restore the existing motor ways in the eastern part of the Georgian Caucasus, in particular Jvari Pass, Datvijvari and Abano. “Located 2,400 meters above sea level, Jvari Pass operates almost all year long, with the exception of several closures during winter when avalanches are most common). Datvijvari (2,676 m above sea level) and Abano (2,950 m above sea level) are closed from the end of October until the end of May approximately. As a result, residents living permanently in Shatili and Tusheti are isolated from the outside world, with the exception of a monthly helicopter flight to Tusheti initiated by the Prime Minister last winter” CENN reports.
Tusheti, Omalo Village

These places mentioned above attract many tourists and serve as cultural heritage to the country.

These parts of the country and their protected areas are primarily connected to each other by internal trails built in previous centuries, some of which are now labelled and used by tourists and local residents.

The government of Georgia has decided to restore the existing motor ways in the above-mentioned areas and to build motor ways to replace some of the walking trails. “Specifically, the construction of new roads in the direction of Sno-Juta-Roshka-Shatili-Omalo-Pshaveli and from Pankisi to Tusheti via the Batsara-Khadori Pass (15 km in length). Khadori Pass is located approximately 2,600 m above sea level and, since it is 350 m lower than Abano Pass, the Georgian government believes the road built on it will function during wintertime. As a result, residents spending the winter in Tusheti will no longer be isolated from the outside world. Although the government deserves credit for maintaining the well-being of its population and further developing tourism, the question still stands whether or not such a massive construction project in a naturally beautiful environment is rational. Also, it is important to consider if the construction project will result in a significant anthropogenic change as well as restrict the habitats of natural ecosystems in the area. It should be noted that sections of the projected road, especially surrounding the Amugo and Tebulo mountains located in Andaki, Tusheti, and Alazani along Borbalo-Atsunta, is one of the mountainous regions where rare, red-listed Capra caucasica and Capra aegagrus live. Capra aegagrus widely populated the East Caucasus in past centuries – Capra aegagrus horns almost a meter in length are still kept in family homes and old shrines – but now, the number of Capra aegagrus left is critically low”, the recommendation reads.
Datvijvari Pass

According to Caucasus Environmental NGO Network, the government will struggle to build new roads according to modern standards in Georgia’s mountainous regions as well as struggle to prevent erosion, landslides, and the degradation of slopes. “It is important to note that Datvijvari Pass, about 2,676 metres above sea level, is closed down for almost seven months a year. It seems improbable that the Georgian government could build fully-functioning roads passing through narrow valleys and some areas 3,000 meters above sea level (i.e., Juta-Roshka, Andaki, and Sakorne Passes near Borbalo). The roads built on high gradient slopes will be in need of weekly or monthly clearance of rocks and other debris falling from the slopes, even during the summer.”

As CENN states that Georgian government has failed to meet modern standards of road construction and restoration in the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region in recent years and gives several examples:

“Reconstructing the Zhinvali-Tianeti road where a slope was cut down and widened on the section of the road passing through the forest. Debris (i.e., boulders, stones, and rubble) primarily fell on the lower part of the road, where large boulders inflicted massive damage to the forest along the road – the boulders completely peeled bark off trees and partially crushed them. Interrupted migration of wild animals because of vertically cut-off slopes is another aspect worth mentioning.

Constructing the Kvenamta road for the purpose of high-voltage tower construction in Gudamakari and Bursachiri. If there were proper communication between state agencies, the above road could be transformed into an extremely active tourist area. However, failure to meet road construction standards added to the already degraded Bursachiri slope and created new sources of erosion. Crumbling slopes and mudslides during the rainy season poses a risk to residents living close to the lower part of the river and increases the number of eco-migrant families.

There are many cases of imposing heavy fines due to environmental damage on road construction companies, but almost none of the fines are enforced. “This fosters the impunity syndrome among construction companies and encourages them to reduce costs by causing environmental damage. “Past experience demonstrates that the government and construction companies ignore consequential erosional and gravitational processes and do not implement any significant prevention or mitigation activities. Roads constructed in the above-mentioned areas using such standards will absolutely result in erosion and the degradation of slopes. In the long run, this will significantly change and disfigure the landscape. Note that the above-mentioned road will not improve social and economic conditions of the local population. Moreover, disasters occurring on the road most likely will result in negative publicity for these parts of Georgia”, the NGO explains.
Shatili, Khevsureti

The non-governmental organization aiming to protect environment says the government must effectively address the aforementioned issues. “The solution to these issues requires objective judgement and substantial research. The government must consider the experience of developed countries as well as the opinions of local residents, tourists, and visitors. The government must make an important decision – rather than paying for new roads, perhaps it would be best to restore the already existing roads (i.e., Sno – Juta, Barisakho – Shatili – Mutso – Ardoti, Pshaveli – Omalo, roads in the Ukana Pshavi – Shuapkho – Vakis villages, as well as internal roads in Tusheti like the road from Omalo to the village of Girevi in the Northern Alazani Valley as well as the road in the Gometsari Valley to Tsovati). These roads are desperately in need of repair and maintenance. For example, the existing trails going in the direction of Borbalo – which are also in need of repair – must be labelled. Also, it would be beneficial for the government to utilize a rescue helicopter to help the locals and tourists when necessary. As a result, this will encourage even more tourists and visitors to visit the newly established Pshav-Khevsureti National Park and the roads and trails leading to Pankisi.

The rivers flowing in all directions originate from Borbalo Mountain (i.e., Aragvi of Pshavi, Alazani of Kakheti, Alazani of Tusheti, Andaki, and Lori). Trails used to lead from the valleys of these rivers to Borbalo and, in essence, were considered a crossroads in mountainous East Georgia. CENN says, these trails must be brought back to life and restored with tourist shelters established close to the passes near the mountain (i.e., Sakorne and Andaki). “If these actions are enforced, the trails will be brought back to working order and thus, locals and tourists will positively benefit from these trails. If we analyse the above in an unbiased manner and weigh all of the pros and cons, less damage will be inflicted on the environment. As a result, more tourists and visitors will spend money to visit this beautifully mountainous part of East Georgia, as well as keep local residents satisfied.”

Related stories:

Georgia - in BBC's World's Most Dangerous Roads documentary

One of the most dangerous roads in the world - Tusheti

Magnificent Khevsureti captured by a Georgian photographer

Skies Over Svaneti Georgia(Video)

Travel blogger about Georgian tourism industry and hospitality(Video)
Other Stories
Number of visitors increased by 98% in highlands of Georgia’s Adjara Region
According to the latest statistics, mountainous part of Georgia’s seaside Adjara Region
Mestia – Magnificent capital of Georgia’s Svaneti Region
Mestia is a highland townlet in northwest Georgia, at an elevation of 1,500 meters
Wine remains discovered in Georgia among the world’s 10 most important findings
The Archeology, international research magazine of US Archaeological Institute,
Why Georgia is a hotspot for natural wines – The Guardian
Georgian wine is a favorite drink not only for locals but for foreigners and tourists
Georgian forests and wetlands to be included among UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Area of Colchis wetlands and forests will be included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Bloomberg advises ski lovers to visit Georgia’s famous ski resort Gudauri
Bloomberg advises 5 wonderful places for ski lovers, with Georgia’s ski resort Gudauri on the top of the list.
Georgia's Soviet-era monuments featured on CNN
Georgia’s soviet architecture, mosaics and monuments of the past often attract attention
Vardzia, the ancient Cave City of Georgia – Journal of Nomads
Vardzia, Georgia’s unique cave city continues to amaze people from all over the world.
The Independent: Inside Ushguli, The most remote village in Georgia
Famous British online newspaper The Independent uncovers Georgia’s most remote village of Ushguli located in Svaneti.
Popular British channel devotes special show to Georgian wine
Georgian wine is gaining more and more attention internationally.
Adventure, culture & good food: what foreign tourists expect from Georgia
Over the last few months, several articles have been published in worldwide press praising Georgia
Bloomberg Businessweek names Georgia among the best travel destinations in 2018
Yet another newspaper puts Georgia on its list of the most attractive destinations for travelling this year.
Popular influencer recommends where to go in Tbilisi
Influencer Irina Lakicevic recently visited Georgia for the first time. In her blog, she is raving about her “thrilling trip into a culture which has been equally influenced by the East as it has by the West”.
The Guardian names Tbilisi among the hottest travel destinations of 2018
A well-known British publication The Guardian offers a list of 40 fabulous destinations around the world.
Why wine lovers should visit Tbilisi in 2018
Well-known English lifestyle newsletter, Evening Standard, uncovers the reasons why wine lovers should visit Tbilisi,
Gergeti Trinity Church among world’s most beautiful churches - The Telegraph
The British Newspaper The Telegraph has published a list featuring the world’s most stunning churches.
15 things to know about Tamar the Great – First female monarch of Georgia
For the first time since its creation, one of the most popular computer games in the world
Tbilisi is one of 7 metropolises to visit in 2018
The magazines „The Spaces“ and "CNN Style" have chosen the seven most savvy cities to watch this year – among them Georgia’s capital.
6 fairy places of Georgia to visit in winter
The Georgian highlands are already covered in snow.
Ski season opens in Georgia’s winter resorts
Skiing enthusiasts, extremists and lovers of snowy mountains will be excited to hear that the new winter season has already started in Georgia.
Discover lesser-known attractions of Tbilisi
Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, boasts its unique history and culture.
Famous blogger’s book about Georgian wine among the best books on drink of 2017
Georgian wine is earning more and more recognition internationally.
Georgia’s ancient rock carvings included in the Prehistoric Rock Art Trails
Georgia became the member of International Association of the ancient trails.
Guinness Book of Records declares Georgian wine as world's oldest wine
After the recently announced findings of international group of scientists on archaeological evidence discovered near Tbilisi,
Georgia named among best trip destinations in 2018 by National Geographic
National Geographic has revealed the list of the best places to travel in 2018.
GEL Exchange Rate