Georgia Leases Forests, Amid Protests

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 2007-05-01

The Georgian Ministry of Environment said it held an auction on May 1 and leased large tracts of forested land for 20 years. The announcement sparked protests by environmentalist groups.

The auction has raised a total of GEL 7.7 million (about USD 4.5 million). Licenses were issued for timber manufacturing in the regions of Samtskhe-Javakheti, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti and Kakheti. Recipients were Georgian-Italian, Georgian-Belgium and Georgian-Chinese investors, according to the Ministry of Environment.

Meanwhile, activists from the Green Alternative, Greens Movement of Georgia and Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN) rallied outside the Ministry of Environment on May 1 to protest against the auction.

Environmentalist groups claim that although the country’s forestry management is in need of urgent reform, hasty decision aimed only at “a short-term fiscal effect” is unacceptable.

“We think it is inadmissible to start reform in the sector until the National Forest Policy and Strategy are developed in a participatory manner and agreed upon with all stakeholders. These documents should serve as a starting-point for the development of environmentally and economically feasible reform,” a statement issued by CENN on April 30 reads.