Three Georgian CSOs, including Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association (GYLA), Social Justice Center (formerly EMC), Green Alternative, slammed the Government of Georgia and the company in charge of the Namakhvani Hydropower Plant project for “disinformation campaigns and discrediting attacks” against those opposing the HPP construction.
The Government fails to act in defense of the public interest, the CSOs said, adding that “its public communication is openly being complemented by the company’s PR, which blurs the line between the state and a private entity.” The watchdogs said, the state’s role in the process is limited to addressing “police force and repression” against project opponents.
The CSOs also asserted that the Government – refusing dialogue – continues cracking down on the rights to assembly, environmental protection, use of public space, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement of Rioni valley locals.
The watchdogs accused the Government and other local and international actors involved in the project of framing the “peaceful and legitimate” protest against the HPP as xenophobic and marginal, and as “the fight against energy security and national interests of Georgia.”
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The signatories also expressed concerns that project implementing company ENKA and state-owned “Georgian Energy Development Fund” have been responding to “legitimate” and “completely fair” public protests with a smear campaign.
Georgian Ombudsperson recently also voiced concerns over the authorities depriving protesters “of the opportunity to participate in an assembly” by restricting movement, without providing “substantiated” justification for interference with the right.
Ministry of Economy Responds
“Accusations made by three [CSOs] today, claiming we are not for dialogue, do not correspond to reality,” the Economy Ministry rebuffed today, stressing that the agency is “guided by the principle of publicity when making decisions.”
Moreover, the Economy Ministry said it is unacceptable to conduct dialogue under circumstances in which one side “is spreading baseless and unfounded allegations against the other,” with the aim of misleading the public and escalating the situation at the Namakhvani HPP construction site.
The statement also called on the CSOs to agree to a discussion format and agenda, adding that “competent experts and stakeholders should be involved in the process.” However, the Ministry warned that it will consider attempts to politicize the discussion and halt the construction of the project “a gross violation of the dialogue format.”
Protests against the construction of Namakhvani HPP in the Rioni Valley of Western Georgia have been going on for months now, with opponents citing concerns over malign investor agreement and environmental impacts. The resistance has led to numerous clashes between police and local activists.
Project supporters, including authorities, have openly slammed the anti-HPP movement over “xenophobic” and “anti-Turkish” and even for “homophobic” sentiments, something leading activists have continuously and vocally denied. The Namakhvani project encompasses two separate HPPs of 333 MW and 100 MW on the Rioni River. The government hopes to enhance its energy security and to employ up to 1,600 Georgians with the “foreign direct investment in the amount of USD 800 million.”