PM Ivanishvili spoke strongly in support of development of hydro resources in general and specifically of large-scale Khudoni hydro power plant in the Svaneti region and said those who are against of such projects “only stir noise” and “do not want country’s development”.
He made the remarks in the Adjara region on September 16 where he attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Shuakhevi hydro power plant in the Adjara Autonomous Republic, close to the Turkish border. The planned Shuakhevi HPP is part of the Adjaristskali hydro cascade project, which will also include two other hydro power plants.
The project, which is expected to have an installed capacity of up to 400 MW, has an estimated cost of USD 700 million. Tata Power, India's largest integrated private power utility, Norway-based Clean Energy Invest AS and IFC’s InfraVentures are the project partners with Tata and Clean Energy Invest holding 40% stake each and the rest is owned by InfraVentures. 80% of the power, generated by the project, is planned to be exported to Turkey.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, PM Ivanishvili said that Georgia “strategically we need construction of hydro power plants very much.”
In his speech the PM touched upon the controversy surrounding number of planned hydro power plants, particularly the Khudoni HPP, which causes protest of locals and environmentalists.
Construction of the major, 650 megawatt hydropower plant, Khudoni, in mountainous region of Svaneti, will involve building about 200-meter dam and a reservoir on the Enguri river; the project will cause flooding of Khaishi village, which will require resettlement of local residents. Construction of the Khudoni dam on the Enguri river in western Georgia was first mulled back in 1980s, but it’s construction at the time was halted after the protests over environmental concern. The project was revitalized under the previous government, which was actively promoting country’s hydro resources for attracting investments.
“Khudoni hydro power plant should be built, like many other hydro power plants,” Ivanishvili said.
He said that the opponents of the project even tried to lobby against this plant through head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II; Ivanishvili said that during their recent meeting on September 13, the Patriarch asked him to reconsider the plan of constructing Khudoni HPP, as well as another hydroelectric power station.
“We had a certain polemic at the beginning and I think that our wise Patriarch understood soon and instead of requesting to stop [construction of those two HPPs] we agreed that he would explain the population that construction of these hydro power plants is necessary,” Ivanishvili said.
He said, addressing to those people who are against of the project, “don’t be misled” by opponents who argue that large-scale hydro power plants will harm the environment. “We will preserve the best part of our nature and at the same time the nature also needs a good economy… We should find a golden mean,” Ivanishvili said.
“Do not believe to the opponents; they only make noise; they can’t do anything else but to stir noise,” he said. “We should continue construction of hydro power plants with the view that it is needed for our country and for its future.”
“We have opponents, who do not want country’s development and only aim at gaining popularity by making superficial statements, but those who look into the future and those who want country’s revival should realize that we have to use our hydro resources,” Ivanishvili told journalists after the groundbreaking ceremony.
He said that he understands concerns of those locals of the Khaishi village, who will have to be resettled. “But they should understand that they are helping country’s future and make a certain sacrifice for that purpose,” Ivanishvili said, adding that those locals will receive “a very dignified” compensation.
A public discussion of a report on environmental impact of the Khudoni HPP project is planned in the village of Khaishi on September 18. PM Ivanishvili said that he will visit the village and meet the locals “if needed”.