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Community forum held in Kachreti aims to raise awareness on climate change

By Nika Gamtsemlidze
Wednesday, December 25
Representatives of 13 Georgian municipalities facing a high risk of flooding and other climate-driven disasters met at a community forum on 19-20 December 2019 to discuss the threats they face and the potential solutions.

The event was organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Environmental Information & Education Centre of Georgia’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture (MEPA).

The community forum was held under a new USD 74 million programme implemented by UNDP and MEPA with funding from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Government of Georgia and the Swiss and Swedish development agencies and was the first of its kind.

This seven-year programme aims to reduce the risk of floods and other climate-driven disasters in all 11 of Georgia’s major river basins, provide direct protection to more than 1.7 million people and assist the country in building a climate-proof future.

Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, Solomon Pavliashvili, attended the forum. As he noted, the engagement of local municipalities is the key to achieving success under this unprecedented national programme.

“Countering our common challenge of climate change requires a combination of measures built around systemic policy approaches and active involvement of the society,” noted Pavliashvili.

UNDP Head Louisa Vinton talked about today’s challenges and ways to overcome them.

“People tend to assume that someone else far away in the capital is responsible for protecting them from natural disasters. The engagement of the responsible national authorities is crucial, but local communities also have a key role to play in prevention and response,” noted Vinton.

Participants in the forum were briefed on programme components that include sophisticated satellite-based river basin mapping to identify the locations at highest risk of natural disasters; modernization and re-equipping of the country’s hydrometeorological forecasting and observation system; creation of a nationwide early warning system; community-level awareness-raising and investments in protective infrastructure and other nature-based structural measures.

The 13 municipalities attending – Lagodekhi, Signagi, Akhmeta, Gori, Telavi, Abasha, Senaki, Samtredia, Khobi, Kobuleti, Ozurgeti, Lanchkhuti and Chokhatauri – have already been identified as high-risk areas and will be among the first to receive direct support from the programme in designing and constructing disaster-prevention infrastructure. Ultimately 100 municipalities will receive support.

The importance of communication, cooperation and coordination among the many different government agencies with responsibility for disasters was another focus of the discussions. Among the entities represented at the forum were the National Environmental Agency under MEPA; the National Security Council; the Emergency Management Service under the Ministry of Internal Affairs; and the Roads Department of the Ministry for Regional Development and Infrastructure.

The municipalities were represented not only by local government officials but also by activists from the community and non-governmental organizations and university and other educational personnel. The discussions showed that disaster risk is a topic of deep and immediate concern for local communities and that they need to build climate resilience is recognized as an urgent priority for Georgia.