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New City on the Black Sea: But Who Will Live There?

By Messenger Staff
Friday, December 9
Some days ago President Saakashvili announced publicly that from next year the construction of a new city under the name of Lazika will start on the Black Sea coast of Georgia between Anaklia and Kulevi. He announced this news as a decided and endorsed decision not as a hypothesis but as a firm reality. So far nobody around his government has given any figures or research by solid bodies or recommendations of any urban planning institutions either inside the country or outside which would confirm that this decision has been taken as a result of calculated considerations or plans. No feasibility study has been provided or even mentioned to be under consideration. Independent analysts and the opposition spectrum are very critical towards this initiative. They claim that all such decisions should be based on serious economic calculations, assessing the potential of the country, its needs and reality.

The president's people on the other hand unanimously support this decision. They take the words of the president as granted and accuse the opposition of a lack of imagination, repeating that the presidentís enthusiasm is based on deep thought, evaluations and results of serious consideration.

Representatives of different branches of the sciences such as economy, geography, climatology, environmental studies, and demography pose their own questions. The questions vary, starting from the financial potential of the country and its ability to attract extra resources and investments for this project to ecological safety and the capability of the country to accommodate another port on top of Batumi and Poti ports and the Supsa and Kulevi terminals. Presumably, the new city, as Saakashvili promised, will have a developed port and appropriate facilities. Analysts ask questions which are not so far answered but only returned back as accusations of a lack of the vision of the prospective developments of the country.

Architects and urban settlement specialists are asking the question - what will come first, commercial or residential facilities? What kind of settlement will be designed? As the president promised around half a million people will be settled there. The settlement of half a million people needs a very serious design of appropriate infrastructure - starting from streets and utilities to kindergartens, schools, hospitals and other institutions absolutely necessary for any kind of settlement.

What kind of enterprises will be build there? The neighbouring free industrial zone of Poti is stuck in a rut and so far is not moving forward and has given no significant yield to the Georgian economy. Another issue is finance which should be mobilized to implement this project. Many complain that instead of thinking about building new cities and towns the ruling administration should rather better care for the existing towns and villages and population there. The country is involved in several fundamental projects simultaneously, it is building tourist infrastructure throughout the country, constructing facilities hosting the parliament and government in Kutaisi, building and reconstructing motorways east to west, settling and accommodating IDPs countrywide, reconstructing districts in Tbilisi, and this is not to mention the everyday problems of governance around the country.

Very acute problems also could become demographic issues, who will settle in this city of dreams? Firstly, we should look at this from the real figures of inhabitants of Georgia. The figure of how many people live in Georgia differs very much from one another. According to the last census carried out during the Soviet regime in the last century, Georgia had a population of 5.5 mln but much has changed since then. Officially, the Georgian administration claims that there are around 4.5 mln people in Georgia, unofficial information gives other figures. Some analysts suggest that at the moment there are no more than 3.5 mln people in Georgia. Though officials ignore those figures, no realistic figures based on census are available so far. One thing is for certain however, many Georgian citizens are spread around the world in different countries, mostly in the former Soviet Union republics, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and so on. There are serious numbers of Georgians in Greece, Italy, Germany, Holland, the US and elsewhere. Exact numbers of those people are unknown, specialists in demography recently confirmed that today Georgia is experiencing negative growth in terms of the population. That is to say, the population is decreasing and over time the nation will be threatened with disappearing.

So the question appears again, who is the targeted population for the new city of Lazika suggested by the president. Georgians, Chinese, Arabs, Turks, Iranians, who? This should also be very thoroughly calculated, investigated and answered.