105 Days – 105 Nights: Battle for the Rioni Valley

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The construction of Namakhvani HPP was protested with a large-scale action in the village of Namokhvani, Tskaltubo Municipality. On the 105th day of the continuous protest, the residents of the valley set up a tent in the village, near the Rioni River floodplain, which was taken by the law enforcers in the village of Joneti last week, on the grounds that the tent was standing on the territory of Enka construction company.

Police did not intervene to set up the tent

Demands for the February 7 rally remain unchanged, with locals, civil society activists, environmentalists and human rights groups expressing solidarity with protesters from across the region, demanding a halt to work, leaving the company in the valley and removing heavy equipment. Added to these demands today is another demand: the return of a cross taken by law enforcement a week ago to the same area.

"No giant hydropower plants!" - Remains an unchanging demand of the protesters

“No to giant hydropower plants!” – Remains an unchanging demand of the protesters

In November 2020, opponents of the construction of the HPP erected a cross at the site where the company was carrying out preparatory work.

The organizers of the protest demand that the government cancel the contract with Enka, the construction company of the Namakhvani HPP cascade, according to which part of the Rioni Valley was transferred to the ownership of the company and part for 99 years.

Malkhaz Machalikashvili

Malkhaz Machalikashvili

The rally in the village of Namokhvani was joined by members of the anti-occupation movement and representatives of opposition political parties, but they did not address the protesters because the organizers did not want the protest to give a useful political load to any party.

Malkhaz Machalikashvili, the father of Temirlan Machalikashvili, who was killed during the special operation, was also present at the rally.

The rally was held against the backdrop of an unprecedented mobilization of law enforcers in Namokhvani, although the police did not prevent the erection of a tent.

Police were checking the cars coming from Kutaisi to the rally

Police were checking the cars coming from Kutaisi to the rally

Law enforcers stopped cars coming from Kutaisi to the rally near the village of Ofurchkheti and checked their luggage. On February 7, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs stopped two vehicles during the rally. One of the vehicles removed a registered Winchester model firearm and a sniper rifle, and the other removed a baseball bat and a blunt object, the so-called “Dubinka”.

Police explained to the owners after the seizure that the items would be returned after the rally.

The Ministry of Economy of Georgia issued a statement regarding the transfer of a plot of land in the Rioni gorge to the company “Enka” a few days ago:

Natia Turnava - Minister of Economy

Natia Turnava – Minister of Economy

“We would like to respond to reports that the company Enka, which is implementing the Namakhvani HPP cascade project, has been transferred from state ownership to the entire Rioni Valley. We emphasize that this information is untrue and serves to create tensions – the company’s ownership or long-term ownership “Only the specific area where the hydropower plant is being built and located is a common practice in the country – when an investor makes an investment, especially a particularly large one ($ 800 million), he or she obviously has to own or own the land for long-term use.” .

Protesters express solidarity

Protesters express solidarity

In response to the protest, the company talks about the benefits of the project, the electricity generated, the number of employees and the amount of investment. According to them, in Tskaltubo and Tsageri municipalities, Namakhvani and Tvishi HPPs under construction on the Rioni River will generate 1,514 GWh of energy per year, while the installed capacity of the HPPs is 433 MW.

After the commissioning of the HPP, “Enka” promises to add 20 million GEL to the budget annually and employ up to 3,000 people for construction.

Part of the local population has been protesting the construction of two hydropower plants in the village of Namokhvani in Tskaltubo Municipality for years, but the protest intensified last year after the company started construction work on several sites in the Rioni Valley and set up a temporary housing camp for foreign construction workers.

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