LAZIKA: ECONOMICAL CENTRE OR ECOLOGICAL DANGER?
Tiredness and the hopeless atmosphere is the first and only feeling you can get, entering Tbilisi-Zugdidi (a city in the Western Georgian historical province of Samegrelo) train’s cheapest carriages. While the train horn is being heard and it starts moving quietly, duskiness makes everybody to sleep. From Zugdidi I continue my way to western part of Georgia where the government builds a new, luxurious city Lazika. At 7:00 in the morning taxi drives me to Lazika’s territory which is 30 km away from Zugdidi. It is a place with completely wild nature, mostly covered with swamp. The territory is included in Kolkheti National Park of Georgia and was granted RAMSAR status in 1996. From the very far the dust of hardware is visible: a huge construction has already been started. Dozens of construction workers are working on drying swamps and aligning the land. The skeleton of the first huge building has been scud up. It is the Public Service Hall, belongs to Ministry of Justice. Construction workers didn’t give any information about the construction. “We are not allowed to speak with journalists about Lazika,” says one of the constructor workers who didn’t even reveal his name. Ministry of Justice in Georgia planned to use 100-150 km² of wild nature territory for building Lazika. As Deputy Minister of Justice Giorgi Vashadze told us, over 500 thousand residents will live in Lazika. “The new port, business centers, separate legislation, simplified economical system will attract many investors from all over the world” - says Vashadze. Ministery has neither project and documents nor budget of construction. “The idea is still under discussion that’s why we cannot submit any project or document.” While Georgian authorities discuss economical and political benefits of Lazika, ecologists speak about ecological violence construction can make. Nino Chkhobadze, the head of NGO Greens’ Movement of Georgia, former Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia assures that The Ministry of Justice violates basic laws and conventions about Kolkheti Park. “The construction of Lazika will violate the ecological balance of whole region. Swamps they dry now have a great role for the sea: it keeps the distance between water and the ground. In Kolkheti Park there are more than 45 types of birds which are also included in RAMSAR Convention. They don’t take those facts into consideration but I know some ecological NGOs that already have informed RAMSAR about those actions” - says Chkhobadze. Giorgi Vashadze told that The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection has already started negotiations with RAMSAR and they will act according to local and international law. He also assures that the city should be ecologically clean. “There will be a big zoo, where all kind of wild animals and birds will be included” - says Vashadze. After two years the Government of Georgia plans to start urbanization process and let Georgian citizens and foreign investors live there. According to Deputy Minister of Justice Giorgi Vashadze, there are already more than seven investors from China, Russia and even from Australia. While Georgian government is seeking to have the most luxurious city in the region, Zugdidi citizens look this initiative with suspicious: “who will go to live there? Me? Never! It’s not for Georgians. We have our own houses,” train conductor from Zugdidi. Governement in Georgia has been changed recently. Newscafe will follow the story out about Lazika.