Save the Georgian Forests

01/05/07

Protest action against alienation of forest was held in front of the building of ministry of environmental protection and natural resources of Georgia on May 1, 2007. The action was organized by Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN), Green Alternative and Green Movement of Georgia. Action started at 11:00 AM. Auction was scheduled at 12:00 PM. All the tentative buyers arrived at the ministry were met by a number of posters.

Despite the strong public protest and the poor state of the Georgian forests, ministry held auction (May 1, 2007) and alienated considerable parts of the Georgia’s forests. Particularly, forest areas in Kakheti, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti and Samtskhe-Javakheti Regions.

The licenses which the ministry has issued will be valid for 20 years. State budget received 7 765 096 GEL as the result of the auction. Winners are:

* Representative of Georgian-Belgian Company “Physical person Emil Reinirs” purchased license on Akhaltsikhe timber manufacturing;
* Georgian- Chinese Ltd “Georgia Wood and Industrial Development” purchased license on timber manufacturing in Tsalendjikha and Chkhoritsku forest areas;
* Georgian-Italian Company “Georgian Timber Industry Company” bought license on timber manufacturing in Kvareli forest area.

The reform intends introduction of long term alienation of the State forest without intersectoral approach, environmental analyses and feasibility study and economical analysis of consequences. Unfortunately, all the emphasis is placed on immediate fiscal effect of filling the state budget rather than considering the ecological, protective and recreational functions of the forests.

Although the public is convinced that reforms are essential in the forestry sector, we think it is inadmissible to start reform in the sector until the National Forest Policy and Strategy. These documents should serve as starting-point for the development of environmentally and economically feasible form of reform. The above mentioned document is still in the process of development. Furthermore, the adequate legal basis are missing that would ensure sustainable utilization of the forest resources. The forest inventory is not implemented and, subsequently, functional categorization is not done.

Expropriation of the forest in the form of 20 years contracts worries us deeply. In a country where rules are merely a waste of paper, corruption runs deep, effective control and maintenance schemes for environmental protection do not exist and respect for nature is low in general, we feel strongly that there should be NO Expropriation until the National Forest Policy and Strategy is developed and actively enforced. Who would start building a house without thinking about its design before?

Prepared by CENN
2007-05-01

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