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Guerrilla gardening movement in Tbilisi asks for protection

By Tatia Megeneishvili
Friday, March 14
Chairman of the Sakrebulo Irakli Shikhiashvili met with the representatives of the Guerrilla Gardening movement in Tbilisi, who have been protesting the construction of Hotel Budapest in Vake Park for more than for 2 months.

Shikhiashvili told the demonstrators that the Mayor’s Office was giving away permits on constructions on such areas without taking the public interest into account. However, as the acting mayor, Sevdia Ugrekhelidze, said earlier in January, the area where the hotel will be located does not belong to Vake Park and has been in private ownership since the 1990s.

“For me, as a citizen, first of all it is necessary to have a clean environment. Business is good, but living without oxygen is impossible,” Shikhiashvili said inviting the protesters to continue discussing the issue at Tbilisi City Hall on March 14.

According to the Sakrebulo Chairman, representatives of relevant departments will also be invited to attend the session, where the parties will be able to discuss the law and minimize the problem, so that neither the investor nor the environment will be damaged.

The Chairperson of the City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee, Kakhaber Piruashvili, considers any kind of construction in the park wrong, stressing the importance of such resting zones for the population of Tbilisi and its vicinity.

According to Piruashvili, alternative land should be offered to the investor for construction.

Meanwhile the members of the Guerrilla Gardening movement posted on their Facebook page on March 12 that one of their activists was kidnapped and taken to Natakhtari.

“Kidnappers threatened to violently disperse the movement and offered money to do it peacefully,” the statement read, stressing that the person is safe now.

According to the movement, another activist was fired from her job for supporting the protest.

“We are left no choice but to seek support and protection from ombudsman, civil society and the diplomatic corps. We will not retreat,” members of Guerilla Gardening movement have stated.

This coming Sunday, people united under the Facebook group We Were Grown in Vake Park encourage everyone to gather at Vake Park at 2 p.m. to recollect a childhood spent in the park and help preserve the environment that is necessary for their future generations.

“Vake Park is not the place where such a huge building should be built. It is time to protect our district and take care of our city, [and the] country,” they said stressing that the citizens should be the masters of their hometown.