What happened in the Pankisi gorge on the 21st of April?
22 April, 2019
What happened in the Pankisi gorge on the 21st of April?
Clashes broke out in Pankisi Gorge, Georgia’s northeastern region between special forces and residents protesting the construction of a hydropower plant Khadori 3 on the 21st of April. The locals threw stones and sticks at police, who used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them. Several locals and police officers were injured and hospitalized. Police vehicles, as well as the cars owned by citizens, were also damaged.

Minister of Internal Affairs Giorgi Gakharia arrived in Pankisi Gorge. He
said that said 15 officers had been injured in the clashes. According to Giorgi Gakharia, the construction of the Hydro Power Plant will continue in Pankisi Gorge in case it is supported by 90 percent of the population. At the same time, the Minister once again reiterated that throwing stones was not the way out.
“What's going on today is not suitable for our brotherhood. Today we are not going to decide guilt or innocence here. Now, we all should calm down and then found out, where did we make a mistake and who did the mistake,” Giorgi Zakaria said.

Construction of a hydropower plant Khadori 3

The capacity of the Khadori3 hydroelectric power plant, which is planned to be built on the Alazani River, is 5.4 megawatts. Construction is due to be completed within 12 months. Local residents claim that it will harm the local environment. The protestors said that they will not allow the construction of a power plant to continue.

President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili comments on the clash in Pankisi Gorge

"I am following the recent developments in Pankisi Gorge closely. I am ready to do everything within my competence to ensure that all legitimate interests of the entire state, as well as each citizen, be protected. The agreement is the only way, " Salome Zourabichvili wrote on her Facebook page.

Importance of the Pankisi Gorge for Georgia

Why has it happened that clashes broke out in the Pankisi yesterday, on the Orthodox Palm Sunday? this is a question many has asked. We turned to Mamuka Areshidze, an exepert with this question.

“Nobody in the world can answer that question, not even the government”, Mamuka Areshidze said. “Pankisi is a region with many difficulties. There have been many examples how some groups wanted to spread provocations from outside of the country. I have an impression, that there is someone within the government, who does everything to discredit their country and the government. Enemies will definitely use this and will try to further escalate situation.

I suspect that there are several organizations in Georgia, at least one which I cannot name. They receive money from our neighbor to ensure that hydropower plants will not be built in Georgia. I do not speak about large hydro plants, I doubt their future in Georgia, but small and average size plants are vital, otherwise country can dive into economic collapse. Deficit of electricity becomes more and more visible, old hydro plants cannot meet increased demand. To ensure energetic independence of Georgia, indeed, it is possible, we need to increase number of small and average size hydro plants.

Someone needs to stop development of energy sector in Georgian and first of all, the government must fight this trend. There were indications in the Georgian press about such organizations several times, but the government did not pay attention to it. There have been clashes between the police and residents in every country, but I am sure, it is not the end. Subsequently, hydro plant may never be built, what will be an additional headache for the country.

Today there are several religious and social groups in the Pankisi gorge. Their views differ and not always coincide with each other. There are some groups the government should hold negotiations with. There are people outside of Georgia who have meaningful influence. If they were involved, events would be more peaceful”.

Related stories:

“In Georgia, the threat is external, not internal” - The Pankisi Conundrum

The woman who found happiness in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge

A Trail of Death: from Pankisi to Syria

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