The USAID Program INRMW-Georgia, implemented by the GLOWS’ Consortium under the leadership of Florida International University (FIU), provided a regional platform for various stakeholders from three South Caucasus countries. This platform took the form of the South Caucasus Conference on Sustainability and Watershed Management on 3-4 June in Tbilisi, at the Hotel Holiday Inn. The event was organized in close cooperation with the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Georgia, USAID Caucasus and FIU.
Sustainability and watershed management discussed in Tbilisi
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, June 4
The conference aimed to bring together a broad spectrum of stakeholders from three South Caucasus countries to discuss the sustainability of integrated watershed management approaches. The regional conference was opened by Khatuna Gogaladze, Minister of Environment Protection of Georgia, Davit Narmania, Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia, Richard Norland, US Ambassador and Luis Salas, Executive Vice-President of the FIU and the Director of the Representative Office of FIU in Georgia.
According to Mariam Shotadze - Director, USAID INRMW Georgia Program, NRMW’s primary goal is to improve the current and future lives of people in Georgia by utilizing and managing natural resources more sustainably, including water, soil, vegetation and the ecosystem that encompass them.
“The INRMW program pilot activities, including the development of integrated natural resource management plans and the implementation of the small grants program, are carried out in four representative watersheds/areas of the Alazani-Iori and Rioni River basins,” Shotadze told The Messenger.
All the ministries and the representatives of the ministries agreed that the issue is very important and is linked with different state structures and not only.
“Natural resources have no limits. Damage of one aspect might cause the collapse of a system,” Gogaladze said, adding that all the state structures should work integrally to ensure the reasonable usage of natural resources. Gogaladze said that soon Georgia will move to a basin ruling mode and legislative changes will be carried.
“Moving to an integrated mode of basins and the improvement of structural collaboration will encourage the reasonable utilization of natural resources,” Gogaladze said.
Deputy Minister of Economy, Irakli Matkava, stressed that without the reasonable management of natural resources, state economic advancement is less possible.
“Economic development and agricultural advancement, as well as making the country into an attractive manufacturing state for other states in the long term is directly linked with natural resources, water and their reasonable usage,” Matkava stated. He listed the principles that might positively change the situation concerning natural resources usage. 1. Deepening collaboration within government structures. 2. Introducing innovative approaches and technology, as well as accumulating a financial background.
Narmania underscored that the issues related with natural resources should be solved by the municipalities and not by the central government.
“Currently, local municipalities have power. However, they lack finances and the right staff. The central government is trying to assist them as the process of decentralization is still ongoing,” Narmania stated, adding that civil society should also perform a significant role with regard to detecting problems and informing the government and public on time.
He also stated that various actions are being launched from the government, including the installation of water counters that will be a step forward for a better situation in the preservation and reasonable utilization of natural resources.
“We held negotiations with the World Bank for assisting Georgia in prevention activities. This is more important than post-disaster responses,” Narmania stated.
Deputy Minister of Finance, Davit Lejava, stated that the financing of environmental programs have been doubled this year and has reached 26 million GEL.