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Svan population continues boycotting Khudon HES construction

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, February 7
Protest rallies against the construction of the Khudon Hydro Electric Station continue in Svaneti. Confident that the construction of the Khudon HES will cause flooding in the region so that the churches and nearby cemetery will be underwater, locals of the village Khaishi, where the HES is supposed to be constructed, gathered to express protest.

The Svans reminded the government that according to the constitutional agreement between the church and the state in 2002, the latter has taken a responsibility on protecting churches and monasteries all across the country.

Even though the surveying work in the village has been temporarily suspended, they asked the Georgian Patriarchate to mediate with the new Georgian administration, hoping that the project of the Khudon HES would fail.

However, the Georgian Ministry of Energy claims that the people have nothing to worry about as the territory will not be damaged from the construction and local families will even have their plots of land registered as property. According to the Ministry, Trans Elektrika Limited’s $776 million project will produce 16% of the country's hydro electric generation.

Appealing to the Georgian government to consider interests of the local Svan population students, NGOs and ordinary citizens gather in support of the Svan population in front of the State Chancellery on February 6. They stressed that the state should find a solution that would not damage the local population of Khaishi.

One of the demonstrators from Tbilisi’s rally, Genadi Zhorzholiani, reminded the officials that the Svan people have given an oath that they will not adapt to the HES’ construction.

Head of the coalition Unanimity, Mikheil Andghuladze said the reasons, which the Ministry names as the priorities of the Khudon HES mean nothing in comparison to its possible ecological consequences.

According to the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Protection, Khatuna Gogaladze, human interest is the main priority of the Georgian government. This is why the Minister stressed the necessity for engaging the population in discussions around the Khudon HES.

“Not only they should be informed, but also their opinion should be heard and only then the relevant decision should follow,” Minister Gogaladze told Rustavi 2.

Chairman of the parliamentary Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Committee, Gia Tsagareishvili, said the Environmental Ministry’s 106-point remarks about the foreseen construction are based on the calculation and analysis of the European experts working on the issue.

Tsagareishvili said without considering these remarks the project would be hardly implemented. “Because I, the minister [Gogaladze] and people who have some connection to this project are responsible to future generations,” Tsagareishvili stated.

Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili initiated a meeting between the Ministry of Energy, the investor company and the Svan population. Calling construction of the Khudon HES “a project of state and public importance,” the Ministry of Energy expressed its willingness to hold discussions with any interested side over the issue.

However, locals of Khaishi say they will not allow construction.