Adjara at risk: Turkish dam project threatens coastline

CENN Weekly Digest, 25.5.2007

Each year the sea sweeps away more and more of Adjara’s coastline

The efforts of the Turkish Government to use the Chorokhi river as a source of energy are aggravating erosion problems along the Batumi coastline. The problem has existed before, but the new Deriner Dam has put it onto a completely new scale. Following the construction of the dam, the Chorokhi has stopped bringing sand and gravel to this area. Every year the Black Sea washes away hectares of land and damages human settlements. Scores of families have been left homeless. According to research by Dutch consulting companies, the Chorokhi Delta could move 400-1000 metres inland if countermeasures are not taken immediately. This might result in the loss of approximately 1,500 hectares of land in Adjara over the next 25 years. The Sea threatens the villages of Adlia and Angisa, but also Batumi airport and adjacent new districts of Batumi. Beaches are in jeopardy as well.

The ambitious project on the Chorokhi was implemented by Turkey without official agreement from Georgia. When the dam was finished, however, former President Eduard Shevardnadze cut the ribbon together with the then Turkish President. Deriner will be the first multi-arch dam in Turkey, and the third dam by size. It has five 670-MW turbines.

The Georgian government has tried in vain to negotiate with Turkey for compensation payments towards regular rehabilitation works in the area. A special Georgian-Turkish commission was created at one stage, aimed at studying the link between erosive processes along the Batumi coastline and the dam. However, the commission did not yield results and the negotiations were suspended.

The new Georgian government has made the Chorokhi problem a higher priority and contracted European consulting companies to study the situation. At the same time, however, the Georgian position in any future negotiations was weakened when licenses for the extraction of sand and gravel from the river-bed of the Chorokhi were granted to private companies for a total of GEL 60 431.

Sand and gravel extraction have been going on for long in the river, but used to happen illegally and on a small scale. This changed when, two years ago, licenses were given out to extract minerals. This was based on advice from Saknapirdatsva, the coastline protection department, which said that erosion of the Chorokhi could be stopped by minerals extraction. According to the Georgian Law on Sea and River Coastlines and Engineering Protection, it is allowed to extract minerals from rivers only if they are causing erosion and if their removal can solve the problem.

In reality, erosion processes have worsened since the start of extraction, and the delta is now fully flooded. An additional problem is caused by a waste damp on the right river bank from where waste is now washed into the river, threatening tourism in the river-mouth area.

"Saknapirdatsva has made the decision based on falsified scientific and engineering evidence. The companies harshly violate the license agreement," says Archil Guchmanidze from NGO Flora and Fauna.