Gov’t says its ready to ‘meet all’ interested in controversial Namakhvani HPP project

Police do not allow protesters to move to the village of Namakhvani where they have been protesting the construction of Namakhvani HPP for 168 days. Photo: RFE/RL., 12 Apr 2021 - 19:02, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian Economy Minister Natia Turnava says that the government has plans to hold ‘a large meeting’ in the coming days with all interested parties regarding the controversial Namakhvani HPP project.

Residents of Rioni Gorge in western Georgia have been protesting the construction of Namakhvani HPP by Turkish company ENKA for about 170 days.

They say that the Georgian government signed a ‘cabal agreement’ with the Turkish company back in 2019 which is 'against the state interests' and poses ‘serious threats’ to the environment.

Local NGOs also share the fears.

Georgian law enforcers dismantled protesters’ tents in the village of Namakhvani yesterday, citing possible threats of flooding as the reason.

The demonstrators who have accused the government of ‘deliberately hampering a peaceful protest’ held a rally in the village of Gumati earlier today and urged people to join them.

The demonstrators have warned the government of a large-scale rally in Tbilisi. Photo: RFE/RL.

They have tried to break through the police’s barrier to Namokhvani with their hands up. However, when situation got tense the demonstrators decided to march to ENKA office near Kutaisi to call for the company not to build HPPs in Georgia.

Now they are marching to ENKA office.

Turnava, who previously stated that the country’s energy independence is dependent on the project, said earlier today that the large meeting will be held with NGOs, scientists, experts and everyone interested in the project.

We will meet everyone who are able to contribute for improvements in the current project of Namakhvani HPP,” Turnava said.

She stated that ENKA has presented ‘a long list’ of studies about the impact of Namakhvani HPP and added that the government is ready to share the studies to interested parties.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili stated earlier today that the people 'should be given qualified and professional responses.' 

He instructed Turnava to arrive on site and communicate with protesters. 

Economy Minister Natia Turnava says that the Turkish Company ENKA has carried out various studies in the project. 

The Georgian Interior Ministry has reported that they ‘will not let any forcible scenarios of protest in the Rioni Gorge’ and that the police ‘will react strictly to any facts of violation.’

Turkish engineering company ENKA (90 per cent of share) and Norway’s Clean Energy Group (10 per cent share) won the Georgian government tender back in 2019 to build, own and operate the Namakhvani project. 

The cost of the project is 800 million USD (2.66 billion GEL) and it covers the construction of two HPPs along the Rioni River with a capacity of 433 MW and an annual output of 1,514 GWh.

The protesters and the local environmental NGOs say the project was signed behind closed doors and without the involvement of public and NGOs. 

They argue that the government 'deliberately signed the anti-state project’ without the public involvement in discussions.