The Save Rioni Valley movement, an activist group against the construction of Namakhvani Hydropower Plant in Western Georgia, announced yesterday they quit the mediation process between opponents of the project and the Georgian Government led by a European Energy Community Secretariat.
The group, which has been leading the protest against controversial project for over 300 days, said the non-fulfillment of the mediation preconditions and the “biased, unfair, and opaque” process from the government, makes it impossible for the movement to further participate in the process.
“The mediator leans towards a formal and technical solution to the issue in which only the government side is interested,” the Rioni Valley movement.
The activist group said, among others, the mediation parties could not agree on the composition of the environmental impact assessment commission, with them demanding the involvement of the Netherlands Environmental Impact Commission.
In this context, they slammed HPP lobbyist Giorgi Abramishvili of Georgian Renewable Energy Development Association, who also participated in the first mediation meeting against the will of protesters, over accusing the Dutch Commission of pursuing “Russian soft power.”
The activist group further said they distrusted the process over the change of composition of the government group, and that six-member government side, including Deputy Economy and Environment Ministers, Davit Tvalabeishvili and Nino Tandilashvili, respectively, could not assume the responsibility over number of mediation issues.
The activists said their three preconditions to the engage in the mediation process – “ending the persecution of protesters and restoring their free movement in the valley, the possibility of freely protesting at the original protest site, and suspending the work carried out by Enka [company behind the consturction” – were not fully fulfilled.
They claim that authorities attempted to use mediation first to weaken the movement and then – disperse it and recalled that the only nominally accomplished condition was dismantling the metal fence.
As for the protest side, the group said they were offered 13 plots of land still owned by the state as the new the protest site, of which 12 were either far from the construction site, or located on steep slopes, incompatible for the protest. The 13th plot, adjacent to original protest site from where police removed protesters in spring and about to be purchased by the company, was offered to them for only four or six months period to use for protest – which activists declined, fearing they would be removed again unless the plot would be transferred to them by ownership or lease.
As for the cessation of the persecution of the protesters, the statement asserted that although two protesters left the pre-trial detention, they “are not sure how fair will be a decision” made by the court in the final trial.
The Save Rioni Valley movement also asserted that “despite numerous calls, Enka ignores the idea of mediation and continues to operate independently.” They said while construction works have been indeed suspended for almost three months, ENKA surprisingly claims in official statements that the working process is ongoing – a reason for the group to assume the works could be resumed anytime.
Follow our Namakhvani tag for earlier developments and background on the controversial project.
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