Georgia has launched repair works of the south-eastern section of Tiriponi Irrigation Canal after what seems to be a rare deal with Moscow-backed Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetian authorities.
The Canal, a key part of the irrigation scheme in a drought-prone area Shida Kartli region, originating near Russian-occupied Tskhinvali and traversing the occupation line into Tbilisi-held villages multiple times, has been largely abandoned since the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.
A Tbilisi-based official source, that wished to remain anonymous, told Civil.ge that cleaning works of 18 km long section commenced in early November, while the complete reconstruction project will include four routes of the Tiriponi Irrigation System.
The restored parts of the Canal will benefit 15 villages, including the settlements controlled by Russian-occupied South Ossetian authorities, the source added, without disclosing the names of the villages or any further details.
Georgian media cited Agriculture Ministry as reporting, however, that repair works carried out in early November will provide Georgian-held villages of Kirbali, Zerti, Bershueti, Sobisi and Khurvaleti with irrigation waters. Another local media outlet Qartli.ge cited locals as saying that further on the east, waters through restored canals should reach Zemo Rene, Kvemo Rene, Nigoza and Karapila – Tbilisi-controlled ethnic Ossetian majority villages.
Tskhinvali, which controls the headstream originating at the left bank of the Greater Liakhvi river, closed the water sources of the Canal, following Russo-Georgian War over the region, leaving dozens of villages on both sides of the dividing line without irrigation services for years.
The issue has been repeatedly raised during the talks between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali representatives at the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meetings in Ergneti, albeit with no results until now.
In 2013-14, the Municipal Development Fund of Georgia (MDF), with the financial support of the USAID, launched reconstruction works of Tiriponi and Saltvisi Canals along the occupation line to deliver irrigation to farmlands in Tbilisi-controlled conflict-affected villages, albeit the upgrades back then affected villages across western/central sections of the Canals.