Major $5m project will minimise flood losses in west Georgia

A four-year project financed by the UNDP and supported by the Georgian Government will minimize the risks of future floods in west Georgia. Photo by Vladimer Valishvili., Mar 14, 2016, Tbilisi, Georgia

Hundreds of thousands of Georgians living in the country’s most high-risk area prone to flooding will be able to live without fear when a multi-million dollar project to significantly reduce flood risks and damage completes later this year.

A major, four-year project financed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and supported by the Georgian Government will minimize the risks of future floods and damage caused by heavy rain for 200,000 people living in western Georgia.

The project, worth $5,060,000 USD launched in 2012 and will be completed later this year.

Minister said if not the project people living near the river would have leave the area. Photo by Ministry of Environment.

Already experts have developed a new policy for flood risk management, established and installed early warning systems and put forth an innovative approach for land administration for six municipalities in west Georgia, in the basin of the Rioni River, that are the most vulnerable to flooding.

To enhance the project further, the United States (US) government will gift a special radar system to Georgia that sends urgent signals when there are real instances of flood threats.

The municipalities selected for the project were: 

  • Lentekhi
  • Oni 
  • Ambrolauri 
  • Tskaltubo 
  • Samtredia
  • Tsageri 

About 200,000 people live in 38,857 properties in the high-risk flood zones in the six municipalities. 

Within the project thirty five weather monitoring stations and watch towers were either rehabilitated or opened.Photo by Ana Gujabidze. 

What has been done to prevent flood risks? 

Since the project began in 2012 a range of activities have been carried out. Initially the project was divided into three parts: 

  • Developing a policy for flood risk areas; this meant  supporting a new land administration system preventing new homes to be built in high-risk flood territories; 
  • Introducing and implementing the best, modern flood risk management practices; and
  • Creating early warning detection systems.  

Taking the three, key targets into account the following activities were carried out: 

  • Efforts to reinforce river banks included the planting of endemic species on 10 hectares of land. This action meant 150 locals in Samtredia and Tskaltubo will be safer from flood damage; 
  • Large stones and gabions to reinforce and protect the river banks were installed in 10 high-risk flooding areas, ensuring safety to 4,000 locals and their properties; 
  • A digital map of the Rioni River basin was created and handed to the Ministry of Environment of Georgia; 
  • Thirty five weather monitoring stations and watch towers were either rehabilitated or opened. These facilities were equipped with modern technologies allowing real-time weather information to be continually delivered to the National Agency of Environment of Georgia for monitoring and analysis; and
  • An early warning system was created at the Rioni River basin and installed at several points. 

Project Manager Ivane Tsiklauri. Photo by Ana Gujabidze.  

Currently talks are underway regarding a new flood insurance system for victims.

UNDP project manager Ivane Tsiklauri told talks were underway with the Government and with private insurance companies. He said several options were being discussed, however one model envisaged attracting funds to a special account and the money would be spend on covering flood losses. 

A special gift from the US government

The project was innovative and would significantly reduce future flood damage in affected areas in Georgia, however to enhance the project and make it better, the US government will offer Georgia a modern radar system. 

A representative from the National Agency of Environment of Georgia told the radar will be installed in the Rioni River basin. The radar and other monitoring equipment will provide real-time warnings and latest information about flood threats.

Each radar is valued at 1.5 million USD. asked Georgia’s Minister of Environment Gigla Agulashvili about the radar, who confirmed the device would be installed this year. 

UN top representative to Georgia Niels Scott told the successful project might provide future financial support to Georgia in fight against flood. Photo by Ana Gujabidze. 

What do international officials think of the project? 

UNDP top representative in Georgia Niels Scott told the project would be "very successful” to prevent the damage caused by future floods and landslides. Raising awareness of the issue also encouraged the local population to plant more trees and support the environment. 

I also believe the equipment and systems provided through the project will be helpful for some other parts of Georgia,” Scott said. 

Despite this project still in its final stages, Scott said there was a possibility similar initiatives would be supported by UNDP and implemented in other regions of Georgia.

While visiting one village in Samtredia municipality, Environment Minister Agulashvili told if it weren’t for the flood prevention project, people living near the river bank would be among the victims of a future flood and they’ll be "forced to leave the area and rebuild their houses in some other part of the village or elsewhere…”

Trees were planted on the area to reinforce soil and resist landslides. Photo by Ana Gujabidze. 

The Minister stressed Georgia was capable of carrying out these important projects but the country required the support of international donor organisations to implement them.

For example the Czech Republic helped us to install early warning systems at Rikoti Pass, Poland contributed to do the same in Kakheti region. We have installed an early warning system in Devdoraki area [in the eastern, mountainous Dariali Gorge area]” Agulashvili said. 
We generally study the situation, initiate projects and implement them using donor finances, as the Government lacks enough money to finance such large-scaled projects,” Agulashvili added. 

The west Georgia flood prevention project partners were the National Agency of Environment of the Ministry of Environment of Georgia, the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia and the Emergence Situation Management Agency of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia.