Leaders of protest against the Namakhvani Hydropower Plant said after the meeting with the Central Government representatives in Kutaisi, that the authorities seem to be dropping their uncompromising stance over the fate of the project for the first time since protests broke out.
In his press remarks outside Imereti Governor Administration HQ on April 15-16 midnight after a four-hour-long meeting, Varlam Goletiani, the protest leader, said the activists felt “the spirit of concessions” from the Government side. „I think we are moving to the regime of constructive dialogue” with the authorities, he noted.
Goletiani stated, however, that to agree on continuing the dialogue, the activists have three demands, including the Government to “end to repressive policy” in the Rioni River Valley and the police to leave the ravine, to halt groundworks for the powerplant, and to allow protesters to get back to Namakhvani village with protest tents.
Marita Museliani, another protest leader, seconded Goletiani, noting that the Government representatives seemed to be dropping the assertion of the inevitability of the powerplant construction. Mirza Nozadze, another activist that negotiated with the Government representatives, expressed his cautious optimism that “this was not a meeting just for holding a meeting.” Maka Suladze, another local protest leader, also attended the meeting.
On the Government’s part, Leri Barnabishvili, Head of the Regional Liaison Department at the Government Administration, said after the meeting that they promised the concerned activists to get “exhaustive replies” to their questions, which he said will take some time.
Noting that the activists asked “a hypothetical question” about the fate of the HPP construction, Barnabishvili said the Government will not allow any project against the interests of the state to be carried out. “But this was a hypothetical question from their [activists] side and they got [a hypothetical] response,” he asserted.
From the Government side, along with Barnabishvili, two regional Governors – Zviad Shalamberidze of Imereti, and Parmen Magrakvelidze of Racha-Lechkhumi-Kvemo Svaneti, as well as Georgian Dream lawmakers – MP Sozar Subari (Head of Parliament’s Regional Policy Committee), Kutaisi majoritarian MP Zaza Lominadze, two other Imereti region majoritarians, MP Givi Chichinadze and MP Bezhan Tsakadze, MP Gocha Enukidze (majoritarian for Racha, Lechkhumi and Svaneti regions), MP Dimitri Samkharadze (the Georgian Dream’s regional secretary) and MP Goderdzi Chankseliani also attended the meeting.
Dubbing the meeting as “constructive,” MP Sozar Subari said they agreed to continue the dialogue, with no red lines involved. He said nevertheless, that he is “deeply convinced in the need of this HPP for the country.”
In the meantime, the activists say their protest against the powerplant continues in Gumati village, few kilometers north of Kutaisi. Located at the southern entry of the Rioni Valley, Gumati gradually became the protest center, first with police blocking the access to the Valley on April 3, and then with police dismantling tents in Namakhvani village close to the HPP construction site, where activists took protest shifts for over 170 days, on April 12.
The timeframe and design of further talks will depend on Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s recovery from COVID-19, both the activists and the Government representatives noted.
Follow our Namakhvani tag for earlier developments about the controversial project.