Protest rallies broke out in a new region – the Pankisi Gorge. Local residents are protesting against the construction of major hydro power plants. The same rallies take place from time to time in the Svaneti, Racha and Adjara regions too.
The arguments are almost the same. We hear these arguments for decades, starting from movements against the Khudoni HPP in the 1980s – the bones of our ancestors, we have lived here for centuries, and there will be ecological damage. Recall the unforgettable words of Guram Petriashvili: “A Georgian bird flies there, drinking Georgian spring water and signing a Georgian song”.
Let’s imagine a bird, which sings Mravaljamieri and therefore, it is worth thwarting the construction of hydroelectric power plants.
This is not a problem of specific regions. If so, nobody would care, but the situation is more serious.
There are only several economic areas where Georgia can represent itself on the international market.
Agriculture – this field does not work for Georgia at all. The uncertainty around agriculture here results from the fact that it is, , in reality, a natural economy – peasants grow products on small land plots. They consume the main part of the harvest themselves, and take the remaining part to Tbilisi on a rusted Opel to sell them at subway stations.
This is the economy of the 17th century. Replace the rusted Opel with carts, and you will find no difference, and you will never know that it’s the year 2019.
This is not industry – Georgia will never replace China, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia as a production base for transnational corporations. This market is closed, and Georgians have no qualifications, discipline or work ethic.
A company failed to open a clothing factory in Kutaisi because it could not find the personnel, while 300,000 persons are employed in the clothing industry in Cambodia, a country with 5 million citizens.
There is no finance, technology, metallurgy, machine-building.
Georgia has the opportunity to thrive through only 3 fields – tourism, transit and “IT” – the power sector. Today, we can see how the nation destroys its own future.
Despite optimistic statements by government officials, it is clear that the development of the power sector has stopped. The Government boasts of 155 HPP projects at various stages of development. But the government does not detail that multiyear and inefficient negotiations are continued with local residents in the majority of cases, and this torture continues endlessly.
The field that should become a driving force, including in the exports part, remains frozen for years.
Everybody screams, without hesitation and in unison, “we want power systems, but of a small and medium size.” And we have to deal with the same traditional Georgian disease – everybody talks about things they do not know.
Green , wind, and solar energy and other, positive innovations are developed in Europe at a fast pace, but these fields are still subsidized. Clean energy is the future and rich countries can afford to invest money in growing technologies.
As for current consumption, for example, 70% of power in France is generated by nuclear power plants. This ratio is at 45% in Sweden, which focuses more on ecology. And what, do the Swedes care less about ecology than Georgians?
As for small energy facilities, this is much more expensive. The Georgian power system has the following structure; power goes from the station to one big power bank, and from there it is distributed to distribution companies.
This seemingly monopolistic and unhealthy system is accepted by everybody – power stations, which do not care for sales, and distributors, who communicate with one supplier and not with 100 ones. In the end the population gets a more stable power supply and the big power bank distributes electricity there, where it is needed more and is not affixed to one specific consumer.
In this scheme, small and medium HPPs are unprofitable – the more HPPs, the more stretched the infrastructure, the more transmission lines, transformers, and ultimately, more expenses. And can you guess who will compensate these excessive costs?
Power generated by small HPPs is more expensive for the same reason, which is why a Georgian tomato is more expensive than a Turkish one – small turnover means higher expenses and the inverse. These are the fundamentals of economics, and even experts cannot realize this.
The actualization of ecological issues is a separate issue. From where, and why? Ecological issues are promulgated in the country, which has polluted rivers, air polluted with vehicle emissions, mercilessly chops down trees. And why are they placing emphasis on HPPs when talking about nature protection?
I can forecast how all these developments will end. The Georgian village is dying, and this death is inevitable. In the 21st century, Georgian villages have no potential for survival, especially in highland regions.
The villages, where local residents hinder the construction of hydroelectric power plants, will be emptied in 20 years, and local residents will move to betting houses in Tbilisi or to subway stations to sell bananas.
In the end, we will lose both the village and the power sector.
Today, fighting against major hydro power plants signifies the fighting against the future of Georgia.
By Tengiz Ablotia