On February 19, in the Civic Engagement Center of Sagarejo municipality, Human Rights Center organized meeting between the senior school students of Sagarejo municipality public schools, representatives of the municipality city hall, the municipal assembly and the Kakheti regional office of the National Food Agency. The meeting was organized as a follow up of the training course organized by HRC on September 28-29, 2019 for the senior school students from Kakheti region on “WaSH and Human Rights” and “Planning and Implementation of Successful Advocacy Campaigns.” The trainings were organized in the frame of the projects “Young People as Agents of Change for Better WASH” and “Water for the Poor”, which HRC implements with the financial support of the UNICEF and EU (respectively).
During the trainings, students from Sagarejo municipality raised the issue of drinking water quality in their villages and under supervision of HRC, they petitioned the Kakheti regional office of the National Food Agency and asked to test the drinking water in their villages. In October, 2019, in response to the petition of the adolescents, the NFA conducted lab analysis of the drinking water in several villages of Sagarejo municipality: Ninotsminda, Giorgitsminda, Patardzeuli, Tokhliauri, Lambalo and concluded that the quality of the drinking water did not meet the requirements of the Resolution N 58 of the Government of Georgia, which was issued on January 15, 2014. In his December 17, 2019 letter to the Sagarejo municipality mayor, the Head of the Kakheti regional office of the NFA recommended the local authority to plan and implement short-term and long-term activities to eradicate the alarming problem of the polluted drinking water in the mentioned villages. As short-term measures, the NFA recommended the mayor to immediately wash-disinfect the water-reservoirs in the listed villages, to ensure that the reservoirs are chlorinated. Before that, the municipality city hall was recommended to warn the population of the listed villages not to drink the water unless it is boiled.
Before the meeting with the representatives of local self-government bodies, HRC representative arrived in the villages, where the drinking water is polluted according to the NFA’s conclusion and interviewed the locals. None of the interviewed people were informed that the water is extremely polluted in their villages and warned not to drink the water unless it is boiled. They added that no rehabilitation activities were conducted in their villages with regard to drinking water reservoir or system either.
Neither representatives of the municipality city hall, nor the deputies of the villages in the municipal assembly could answer why the recommendation of the NFA was not fulfilled and why the local population was not warned against drinking the water without boiling it up.
The village deputies mentioned that they were informed about the pollution of the drinking water in their villages and never used it in their families. However, they did not know how many families in their villages managed to buy enough drinking water every day. In response to that, the senior school student from Ninotsminda village said that his family could not buy water and they usually drink the water from the tap.
Representative of the LEPL Sagarejo Municipality Service Water Resources and Laboratory Research Center stated at the meeting that drinking water quality is poor in the entire municipality. She said the municipality is supplied from natural, superficial water sources, which are not cleaned and due to financial problems they chlorinate the reservoirs rarely. Natela Janiashvili believes the best solution of the problem is to pump out the water from Iori River though the local budget cannot afford it.
Majoritarian deputy from Tokhliauri village Vefkhia Cherkezishvili said the problem is caused by the fact that drinking water reservoirs are not protected; therefore the water is easily polluted.
Representative of the Water Resources and Laboratory Research Center said they permanently test the drinking water but due to limited financial resources they cannot resolve the problem. Although, as the representatives of the city hall and municipal assembly said, the Government of Georgia announced 2020 as “Year of the Water”, the drinking water is either polluted or not supplied to all 25 villages of Sagarejo municipality. In 2020, Sagarejo municipality shall spend 3 million GEL for the maintenance of the water-supply systems in all 25 villages that means the LEPL will again implement the works, which have short-term effect and do not aim to fully eradicate the problem. Next year, the same money will be spent on the same works.
Senior inspector of the NFA Kakheti regional office Koba Michilashvili said in order to eradicate the problem, it is necessary to plan at least short-term activities; more precisely: chlorinate booths shall be arranged for the water reservoirs in the villages. Assembly deputy from Ninotsminda village Elene Samkhtuashvili said that they had discussed the issue in the local self-government but the landscape does not allow them to arrange chlorinate booths nearby the reservoir in the village.
Representatives of the NFA and Human Rights Center recommended the representatives of the local self-government to spend the allocated budget funds on the full rehabilitation of water-supply problem at least in one or two villages.
HRC believes that instead superficial, temporary rehabilitation works in all villages every year, it will be better if the local authority fully rehabilitates the drinking system in at least two villages but the representatives of the city hall and the municipal assembly could not give any promises.
HRC continues advocacy of the problem and with the participation of the youth, the organization will try to convince the GoG to resolve the drinking water problem in the villages during the Year of the Water.