(From The Green Alternative – to go live shortly)
Save the Unique Khada Valley
The Khada Valley with it’s unique history, culture and tourist potential, is under serious threat. The government of Georgia intends to build a large-scale highway up this historic valley to connect the Caucasus region to Russia.
The 23-kilometer Kvesheti-Kobi road will serve as a part of the North-South corridor and cost Georgia $558.6 million, funded mostly through foreign debt. The highway will ruin the Khada valley, its superb natural landscape and cultural heritage. It is unique in Georgia and contains sixty medieval towers, the original route of the Georgian Military Highway, several villages at 1,900 meters, functioning churches and shrines, as well as a wealth of unexplored archaeological and ethnographic sites. The construction will have a devastating impact on the local inhabitants, environment and any hope for ecotourism development. There are also serious concerns that the seismic and geological risks were not properly assessed for its 8.5 kilometre long tunnel. The project is being promoted as climate change friendly, but in fact will cause permanent damage to the landscape, rare species biodiversity, at a vast financial and environmental cost.
Despite numerous protests and lawsuits from locals and professionals, the project has already started. Furthermore unauthorized construction of a worker’s residence is now being carried out just 50 meters from St. George’s Church in Naghvarevi, directly threatening the Aragvi valley’s most important architectural monument. This fact further exposes the danger for Khada’s rich historical-cultural heritage, especially after the construction of 6 bridges, 5 tunnels, additional secondary roads, technical buildings and large waste disposal sites.
Official attitude to the project is revealed in a letter to locals from one of the project funders (the Asian Development Bank): “This road is being done for Khada" yet locals have repeatedly said "on the contrary the project ignores the needs of villagers and means sacrificing the entire Khada Valley, which we will not allow”.
The Khada Valley, just an hour and a quarter drive from Tbilisi, is accessible almost all year. It is already like an open-air museum and is perfect for eco-tourism and an educational venue. Instead of using its potential, the state is going $475 million into debt to international development banks plus spending $83.6 million from the Georgian budget for a highly doubtful large-scale infrastructure project whose economic attractiveness, negative environmental and social impact, easily outweigh any transport benefits for the country.
We ask the Government of Georgia: the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, and the international financial institutions participating in the project – the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB):
- Find a sound alternative to the Khada Valley in this section of the North-South Corridor, with proper public consultation, thus preventing the destruction of Georgia's unique cultural heritage, biodiversity, as well as draining the valley’s population.
- Carry out proper preliminary studies before allowing any project implementation – with full awareness of possible negative impacts on locals, cultural monuments, archeology and biodiversity.
- Declare the Khada Valley as a Protected Landscape and to promote its inclusion into the UNESCO World Heritage List.