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“I’ll rip you to shreads,” threatened officials of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

30.07.2010

Natalia Sarkisashvili

Officials from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, Alverd Chankseliani and Khatuna Akhalaia, verbally and physically insulted two journalists, Madona Batiashvili and Gela Mtivlishvili of the Kakheti Information Centre. The unfortunate incident took place on July 29, 2010 at 5 PM, in the building of the Ministry, the Orhus Center. The exchange was colorful in its wording, “you’re sick and need treatment … “what an idiot! I should just tear you to threads, you up,’’ – threatened the Ministry officials.

Upon having agreed with the Ministry Press Center, journalists then asked Chankseliani and Akhalaia to answer some of their questions. According to Madona Batiashvili, they addressed the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources three times in order to obtain access to what is legally public information – on February 8, March 4 and April 12. The journalists were asking to look at the documentations about the “Eliminating the Risk Factors of Old Pesticides’’ project. The Ministry refused to follow up on their request claiming that they didn’t have the requested information.

Madona Batiashvili: “In 2008, with the help of the government of Netherlands, the project entitled “Eliminating the Risk Factors of Old Pesticides’’ was implemented. The project was actually undertaken by a Dutch NGO, “Milieukontaqt International” with the cooperation of the Georgian Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources.  Under the terms of the project, participants within the framework of the project, old and no longer needed pesticides should have been collected, packed according to the international norms and safety stored under appropriate conditions. Also, the area around the site of the warehouse should have been brought to the standard for the intended purpose – in such a manner whereby it would be possible to continue using nearby soils without the risk that they the soils had been contaminated by runoff or leaking or spilled pesticide containers. However, in spite of the project and good intentions, only half of the expected work was ever completed.  The places, from where the pesticides should have been taken still contain poisonous agricultural chemicals. The problem in investigation the matter was soon apparent when we decided to look into the matter. We started out by requesting public information. However, in spite of acting legislation under freedom of information rules, our request was not fulfilled.   In response, much to our surprise, they wrote us in response that “that we don’t have it, and we even heard from our respondents that the documentation that we were requested ‘doesn’t exist at all.”

We’ve been trying to contact the press center of the Ministry of Environmental and Natural Resources Press Center for so long now. On July 20, 2010, we finally contacted them. Ekaterine Bendeliani, the director of the Agency’s Press Center gave us the contact information of Alverd Chakseliani, the Director of the Agency for Managing the Remnants of Chemical Substances. We were informed that we would receive the relevant information from him. Chankhseliani met with us and his employee, Khatuna Akhalai in the building of the Ministry at Orhus Center. We consider that they were really aggressive, especially when we told them that pesticides are still in that territory that should have already been completely cleaned. In short, they lost control and started insulting us. Akhalaia physically hit Gela Mtivlishvili, and Chankseliani threatened him with physical abuse.”

Gela Mtivlishvili: Mr. Alverd, do you know what kind of a situation will characterize the target locations upon completion of the project?

Alverd Chankseliani: I’ve seen many of these places before and after the project.

Gela Mtivlishvili: So there are no more pesticides in the so called “clean” territories?

Alverd Chankseliani: Where? Where is that?

Khatuna Akhalaia: No, there are not.

Gela Mtivlishvili: Are you sure?

Khatuna Akhalaia: Yes.

Gela Mtivlishvili: Madona and I went to Telavi, Signani, yesterday and saw that the poison chemicals are still there and that a terrible lofts in the air. Didn’t the project include remediation works?

Alverd Chankseliani: No

Gela Mtivlishvili: The project participants told us that the project included remediation works.

Alverd Chankseliani: I don’t want to know who told you what. Why should I be interested in something that somebody told you on the streets? We can provide you official answers.

Gela Mtivlishvili: We didn’t gather this on the streets, Teona Jokhadze and others, who gave us this information, have been the experts concerning this program.

Alverd Chankseliani: I don’t even know them and I don’t have to know them.

Madona Batiashvili: But you do know Zita Imanova? She’s been the regional manager of the project in Kakheti. In an interview she indicated that in order to restore the soil, trees were planted in Telavi to clean the soil of poisonous chemicals. We could not find any trees there.

Alverd Chankseliani: Then why are you coming to me? Go to people who have more information. Meet the managers, the coordinators.

Gela Mtivlishvili: We already met them and now we want to know from you specifically, what kind of work has been implemented after completing the project?

Alverd Chankseliani: Is this some kind of an exam or what? I was in charge of the whole tracking system in Georgia before you were born. I need specific questions.

Gela Mtivlishvili: You read our letter, where we wrote down our questions. Answer us on those questions. Give us the documentations that you have in the Ministry concerning this project.

Alverd Chankseliani: I already answered you on that.

Gela Mtivlishvili: You said you don’t have any information. Is that an answer?

Alverd Chankseliani: We just don’t have it. That’s it.

Gela Mtivlishvili: Why not? This huge project has been implemented under the guidance of the Ministry. The Ministry has been controlling the project course and you don’t have any documentation from the Ministry?

Alverd Chankseliani: No documentation was needed.

Gela Mtivlishvili: But pesticides are still on the ground and what did you write there, that all is clean?

Alverd Chankseliani: What is on the ground? What? Do you even know what qualifies as a pesticide?

Gela Mtivlishvili: Why are you yelling?

Alverd Chankseliani: You have sufficient and complete answers in a written form. If you have some questions, ask me?

Madona Batiashvili: When this project was starting, I remember that in Telavi, in the hotel “Alaznis Veli”, a meeting was held and you said that this project was being implemented with the Ministry. Now you are saying that the Ministry has nothing to do with it. Then why did you go to the meeting?

Alverd Chankseliani: Don’t ask me for explanations, ask me questions.

Madona Batiashvili: Isn’t the Ministry obligated to check the results of project implementation?

Alverd Chankseliani: Of course, the government hopes for good results from this project. I’m a director of the structure. All these decisions have been made according to mutual agreements. We did whatever we could accomplish within the realms of the project.

Gela Mtivlishvili: Show us the account.

Alverd Chankseliani: Khatuna, give them the account. It’s over. What else?

Gela Mtivlishvili: The Sakobo locals told us that holes were dug in the ground and poisonous chemicals were dumped and then covered with soil.

Khatuna Akhalaia: Who said that?

Gela Mtivlishvili: The local people did. We even have recordings.

Khatuna Akhalaia: Oh my God!

Gela Mtivlishvili: What are you surprised by? Yes, that’s what they said, and the poison chemicals are still in that territory.

Khatuna Akhalaia: You’re nothing more than an instigator!

(Khatuna Akhalaia hits Gela Mtivlishvili at the waist).

Gela Mtivlishvili: Why are you hitting me?

Khatuna Akhalaia: I’ll hit you in the face. You idiot...

Gela Mtivlishvili: Who’s an idiot?

Khatuna Akhalaia: You! You are!

Gela Mtivlishvili: Don’t touch me. Get off.

Khatuna Akhalaia: I’ll do worse!

Alverd Chankseliani: You’re sick! You need some treatment.

Khatuna Akhalaia: Your job is nothing more than to stir up trouble.

Alverd Chankseliani: I will make you pay wherever I meet you again.

          Kakheti Information Center

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