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IDPs Will Spent Cold Winter Together

20.12.2007
5 Cubic Meters of Firewood - Reality or Election Trick?

The IDPs living in Tsalenjikha will spent this cold winter without firewood. A gift from President Saakashvili  and his slogan –“Let’s spent winter together warmly” remains only on the pink vouchers. Poor IDP families are not able to buy the firewood. They do not even have the money necessary for storing the firewood in the forest and taking the wood home. Instead, the Georgian government offers another alternative - electric stoves, but the majority of IDPs cannot afford them.

The IDPs, who reside in a former car park, fear that they will not even have access to electricity. All of them have received the vouchers offered by the president, but they failed to find either the forest where they could collect the firewood or the money necessary for taking the firewood home. IDPs are aware that the Chinese paid 20 million lari to have ownership of the forests in Tsalenjikha for 20 years. The IDPs prefer staying  in their cold houses to facing the anger of the Chinese.

Aza Khvichava, an IDP from Ochamchire: “I think that neither the Chinese, nor the local population will allow us to cut down the firewood because they also need the firewood for heating. Are we supposed to warm our children with brushwood? They are suggesting us to use electricity, but when everybody turns on the electric ovens power will become low and something may explode… They cheated us!”

Khvichava family consists of five members and they were given 2 small rooms in a former car park. Rain water is pouring from their ceiling, the floor has rotted causing the floor to become uneven. The window frames are without windows and they are covered by flour bags. Tamriko Jamaspishvili: “Patokhli” , a firm that issues flour, bags cannot keep the cold away. When the wind blows in winter, the cold goes into bones. Is it possible to raise a 4-year-old child in such conditions?! We do not have toilets or bathrooms. Our 14 lari aid is not enough to solve these problems.     

Physically disabled Dariko Jamaspishvili lives in a room of the above-mentioned building.
She does not have money for medications. The only income of the lonely old woman is her pension. The firewood voucher was given to her as well, but she keeps it under her pillow. “I am becoming numb from the cold. The windows are uncovered and thus I papered the frames with flour bags. I did not have a blanket, but someone gave me one. It belonged to a person who has deceased. The mother-in-law of Gia Kharchilava, the head of Tsalenjikha City Council, gave me the blanket and a bed. She is a kind woman. My neighbor lent me a saucepan and a frying pan, but I do not know what to cook.” Although granny Daro knows that the election is coming up and she should vote for the ‘chief’, but she cannot remember his name. She will love him till the end of her life and after a thinking long and hard this person turns out to be Mikheil Saakashvili.

Several days ago, Koba Subeliani ,the Minister of Refugees and Accommodation, arrived in Tsalenjikha and promised to improve the living conditions, but before the promises become real the IDPs will have to survive a long winter. The local IDP office is unable to offer assistance to IDPs. Cicino Kvarackhelia, the head of the Tsalenjikha IDP office, also has some questions concerning the firewood vouchers: “ We cannot see any solution. To deliver firewood according to the vouchers turned out difficult. IDPs really do not have money for purchasing the firewood. In early times the Tsalenjikha local government helped us and nowadays they can give only 50 lari to families, who have lost family members. The only source of heating remains electric heating. All IDPs will be able to utilize appropriate vouchers.”  

According to Levan Mikava, the head of the Regional Department of Samegrelo-Zemosvaneti and Adjara of the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation of Georgia, the Ministry has apportioned 1200 cubic meters of firewood to the densely populated IDPs in Zugdidi, Poti and Senaki. “800 cubic meters  in Zugdidi, 200 cubic meters in Poti and 200 cubic meters in Senaki. “Ekoline Georgia has been authorized to store the heating materials.”

The local ranger offices were obliged to help IDPs to obtain the firewood. As there was no money needed for bringing the firewood from the forests, the IDPs have decided to sell their vouchers on the black market. The local population behaved in a similar fashion. The Zugdidi Central Market somehow has become a stock exchange for vouchers.
Rezo Bukia, a teacher: “I sold a firewood voucher for 20 lari. The forest rangers have bought it. As we cannot receive firewood with the vouchers there is no sense to keep them. This government considers us blind and deaf. How is it possible to cheat people in such a way?

As it turns out, certain individuals are really buying the firewood vouchers. And those people who hold a great deal of vouchers are able to gather the firewood from the forests much more cheaply. They will store the firewood and sell it next year, if not this year, and its dealers will make a good profit from it.

Nana Pazhava, Tsalenjikha


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