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Water Rights: Gori District Ready to Fight “Mtkvari M”

08.04.2008
Saba Tsitsikashvili, Gori

The villages in Gori District continue to be without water. Locals are calling upon the government to stop the showing-off process of the so-called rehabilitation of the irrigation channels and let the water flow back into the channel. Currently, the villages cannot even supply their livestock with water. The channels are bone dry because the government continues with repairs. Not showing appreciation, locals consider what is being done as just part of pre-election campaign of the water authority.

Unless the water is allowed to flow in the channels in near future the villages will have crop failures and will starve. Peasants have not irrigated their newly sprouted corn, and not to mention other needs for water, as in case there is a fire somewhere and no water to put it out.

More than 70 villages in Gori and Kareli districts are irrigated from the Tiriponi and Saltvisi Channels that comes from the Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia). Both channels have sources in Tskhinvali and are connected-kilometer-long channel from the source to Georgian villages, and it has needed to be cleaned. When Georgian authority claimed the water was not flowing in the channel because Ossetian people did not let them begin works there the on-going cleaning and repair process revealed that the channel was mostly blocked in Georgian villages. However, Georgian government started to clean the channels only this year. According to the plan the cleaning works should have been completed before February because the water has already started running in the channels and peasants are not hopeful that workers will somehow manage to clean the channels in a proper way.

On April 5 2008 Georgian Government and de-facto government reached agreement to carry out cleaning activities of the Saltvisi  irrigation channel coming from Tskhinvali. On April 6 Shida Kartli Regional governor Lado Vardzelashvili, and Mamuka Kurashvili, who is the commander of peacekeeping forces, representatives of the “Mtkvari M Ltd” provided all necessary equipments to the site of the Ergneti block post and wished all success and peaceful progress in from the conflict zone. However, Ossetian side demanded that the blocked roads be opened in exchange for their good will. Naturally the Georgian side satisfied their demand to show their good faith and appreciation. 

“Mtkvari M”, a private company has a contract for providing cleaning activities in the Tskhinvali region. It a company with a sorted history and many people has since appealed to various institutions with their concerns about this company.  Representatives of the “Mtkvari M” state the rehabilitation works would have been completed prior to May 1 of this year.  Peasants claim that until May 1 all fruit trees and corn shoots will die for lack of water. Farmers from Shida Kartli will remain without a harvest for 2008-2009. Consequently, the statements of Davit Tkeshelashvili, the State Minster for Regional Management, claiming the population of the region will defeat poverty this year is in doubt.

On May 16 2007 residents of the villages in Shindisi Community in Gori district sent a petition to the Regional Prosecutor to address their concerns.

“”Regional Department of Water Supply” Ltd has cut water supply for Pkhvanisi and our Communities for eight months already. Several people had heard about the infamous company before that. The channel was cut from the Liakhvi River in the previous century with the participation of most of our villagers. Because of the delay in being supplied with water we have not been able irrigate our plots. Normally we would have already irrigated them three times by this time. The lack of water has also prevented us from irrigating vineyards, gardens, pastures, etc. The springs running in the village goes dry too. Our domestic animals, bees and poultry have remained without a regular source of water. The village has turned into a desert. The danger of fire has increased as a result.  One of the villagers asked for the water that people had purchased for a funeral in order to put out a fire.”

“We urge you to investigate the situation immediately while they are working and punish the company is responsible for  cutting the  water supply, thus leaving the population in a dire situation. They have inflicted damaged on a village that consists of 450 families. Villagers have lost hundred thousands of lari because of the attitude of this company – which is both anti-population and anti-state in its activities.

Families are left without income, people are morally damaged as a result, and their rights have been and continue to be breached. They turn to police all the time for assistance but to no avail. Peasants and governmental officials have also been and continue to be deceived. On May 12 in reply to our protest demonstration, the LTD allowed a little water to flow into the channel to shut us up from our protest. However, only too soon the dry went dry again?”

“Your highness, prosecutor, residents of our village have acted with great patience to have endured such cruelty. We now urge you to supply our village with water in order to be able to get at least a small harvest. Please hold the LTD responsible and ask them to have to pay compensations to the villagers.”

Dato Mujirishvili, the director of the “Mtkvari Ltd” stated in his conversation with the Human Rights Centre that since May 1 the peasants will not have problems regarding the water supply. As for other complaints, he says that they are groundless. Residents of the villages of Pkhvenisi, Shindisi, Kelktseuli, Ruisi and other villagers demand to change the head of the Department for Water Supply. The villagers doubt that their relationship with Mujirishvili will result into a serious conflict as it transpired the last year.  However, still a quarrel might result between peasants too who might attack each other with swinging hoes as they wait their turns to have a bit of irrigation water for their thirty crops.

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