The messenger logo

NGOs plan rallies over selling territory adjacent to Tbilisi Botanic Garden

By Tea Mariamidze
Thursday, May 5
Twenty-nine hectares of territory adjacent to Tbilisi Botanic Garden, across which the Krtsanisi-Shindisi road is under construction at the moment, were auctioned off on May 3. It was sold for 6 326 495 GEL and the only participant of the auction, the Georgian Co-investment Fund, bought the territory. The auction was announced on April 22 by Tbilisi City Hall. The initial price of the land was 6 233 000 Gel.

Moreover, the area is adjacent to 10-hectare of land owned by former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who was the initiator of setting up the Co-Investment Fund.

Based on the agreement, the winner is obliged to construct an 80-room hotel complex within 48 months and arrange a parking lot for at least 50 vehicles.

The agreement also envisages the construction of a recreational space and irrigation systems, as well as providing the territory with all the necessary equipments and taking care of the plants and trees.

However, the conditions set by Tbilisi City Hall for the new investor are not approved of by the opposition and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The head of the fund board, Irakli Karseladze, declared at a press-conference that the fund’s mediator company took part in the auction.

According to him all the procedures were legal and claimed the project will be an opportunity for Tbilisi as it envisages a new recreational space in the capital.

“If any other company presents a better project, we are ready to hand over the purchased area for free,” Karseladze stated.

According to him, the construction of a brilliant recreational zone is planned on the territory, as well as construction of a high-class hotel.

Patrol Police brigades were mobilized at Tbilisi City Hall where protest was organized earlier on May 3 afternoon by the opposition United National Movement (UNM) Party.

Furthermore, 25 NGOs and members of Guerilla Gardening are planning to hold a protest rally over the issue on May 7. The NGOs also demand the continuation of the dispute in court; they link the current project to Panorama Tbilisi Project, which is also carried out by Ivanishvili's Co-Investment Fund.

Rights defenders also demand holding public discussions in Parliament. They fear that selling the territory across the new road will change the road construction process and more trees will be cut down.

"The current project is clearly part of the Panorama Tbilisi project; we are going to stop this process physically and legally as well,” stated Nata Peradze, a member of Guerilla Gardening.

The opposition demands a session in Tbilisi Sakrebulo (City Assembly) and the attendance of Davit Narmania, Tbilisi's Mayor. They say that the territory, which once had the status of the Protected Area, should not have been sold, and that construction work should not be conducted.

“Many documents connected to this issue are not published yet. We are going to demand an extra sitting in the Sakrebulo, where the Mayor will have to answer all the questions,” said UNM member Irakli Abesadze.

According to the Mayor, the capital needs to be developed. “This will be profitable for Tbilisi and all the procedures are legal,” said Mayor Narmania without naming the owner of the land.

The head of the Improvement Service of the Mayor’s Office, Givi Kublashvili, says the road's construction has nothing to do with the Botanical Gardens. However, he does not exclude that the road's construction might need the cutting down of more trees.

Moreover, Giorgi Udzilauri, a representative of the Cartu Group which is also owned by Ivanishvili, denies that the ex-PM has any connection with the land sold at the auction on May 3.

“The UNM is deliberately misleading the public that someone bought the Botanical Gardens. This is not true,” said Udzilauri.

The discussions about the Krtsanisi-Shindisi road started a long time before, when the UNM was the ruling party. The double-way road aims at reducing traffic jams in central Tbilisi.