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Reforestation activities in Borjomi

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, November 14
More than 16 hectares of pinewood and mixed forest that burnt down during the August 2008 conflict will be replanted. 22,500 trees will be planted in total.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia, and the National Forest Agency launched a reforestation project in the Borjomi area on November 11th.The initiative is supported by the Georgian government, the Finnish government and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Work on the project began soon after the 2008 war, when more than 90 hectares of forest burned down. However the project was temporarily halted in 2011.

Preparation for tree planting kicked off two months ago, in September 2013, when 120,000 square meters of land was cleared of bushes and tree stumps.

Niels Scott, UNDP Resident Representative in Georgia, stressed that the UNDP cares about nature and wishes to prevent damages deforestation might cause in future.

“Deforestation causes climate change and various disasters that affects nature and people. Our aim is to encourage positive moves with a long term perspective,” Scott said. He stated that the temporary suspension of the project in 2011 was due to political reasons.

“Finland was eager to assist Georgia in solving the problem and allocated funds.” Christer Michelsson, Ambassador of Finland in Georgia told The Messenger.

“We financed the project. We have knowledge concerning the issue and know the importance of forests,” Michelson said, noting that when the project ends in two years, Finland will encourage other environmental projects in Georgia.

Minister of Environment Khatuna Gogaladze told The Messenger that the ministry is collaborating with various donors to achieve maximal reforestation in the damaged area.

“The problem was not a priority under the previous government. If the government does not take a problem seriously, donors will not be interested in assistance. The new government deemed reforestation a government priority and donors began to come in.” Gogaladze said

According to Gogaladze a special ministerial body has been reinstated that will protect forests and prevent uncontrolled logging. Under the previous government this ministerial branch was abolished and forests came under the control of the Ministry of Energy.

Deputy Environment Minister Nino Sharashidze told The Messenger that the Ministry of Energy was the major deterrent for carrying out the project. Sharashidze explained that after the August war, Finland allocated approximately 1.5 million euros for reforestation efforts.

“After forestry became under the control of the Ministry of Energy the project was abandoned. Everyone was surprised… Finland had offered to pay for a project that was in our interest. Presumably, the Ministry of Energy wanted to use the funds for some other issues.” Sharashidze explained.

Head of the National Forest Agency Bidzina Giorgobiani stressed that the forest reform is crucial and will be launched in 2014.

“Before launching reforms, clear laws should be established and employees should be trained.” Giorgobiani told The Messenger.

Zaza Gamtsemlidze who represented the Environment Protection Committee from the UNM stated that all the attempts carried out in the law in 2011 aimed at turning the environment protection as the main priorities of the country and protection of forests.