Ministry shake-up opposed by environmental groups
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, February 11Environmental groups do not support those changes planned in the Ministry of Environment Protection and Natural Resources, statements regarding the issue were made by Greens Movement of Georgia, Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN) and by Caucasus office of World Wildlife Fund, on February 10. As they have mentioned, such changes in the ministry would make obstacles for Georgia’s integration to the Euro-Atlantic space and will reflect negatively on Georgia’s natural wealth.
“The move is not in line with aspirations to integrate with Europe. With such a decision, Georgia is making a step backward towards the Soviet mentality, wherein environment protection was neglected,” statement of Greens Movement reads.
CENN also expressed “serious concern” about the plan and underlined that the move “may elicit the reduction in the capacities and efficiency of environmental agencies, jeopardize environmental protection in Georgia, and hinder the process of European integration.” Despite the explanation given by the authorities, CENN considers that “the solution of this problem does not require structural reorganization, and can be achieved by the transformation of the internal management group and the establishment of an improved monitoring system. CENN also called on the Government of Georgia to present before the public and the Parliament, The motive and purpose for the reorganization; specifically, results expected to be achieved through this change, substantiation of the expediency of the decision and Compliance with the process of European integration, and the possibility for the fulfillment of obligations assumed within the framework of the EU program.
The Caucasus office of the World Wildlife Fund also expressed its concern about the changes, especially towards two points of the plan, “separation of forest sector from environment protection sector might have a very negative effect not only on a healthy environment, but on the country’s economy as well. Integration of protected territories’ agency (which performs well) into the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development is illogical. Separation of the agency from environment protection field and integration to other structure might impose a mixture of priorities, which will have negative effects on Georgia’s natural wealth.“
As the Prime Minister, Nika Gilauri stated at the government’s session on February 8, issues related with natural resources and licensing would be transferred under the subordination of the Ministry of Energy, which would be renamed to the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources. He also said that the Agency of Protected Areas would be transferred to the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development. “Many details are still remaining and we continue working on them,” Gilauri said.
One of the options, he said, was to downgrade the Ministry of Environment into the State Ministry, led by a minister without a portfolio. The PM said that a relevant draft law would be presented to the Parliament in coming days.
The principal reason, stated by the President and the Government, for the implementation of such a major change was the existence of high-level corruption in the Ministry.