Review

Project “Advocating Chiatura Environmental Protection Issues” started in April, 2011 and ended in February, 2012. The project is implemented by “Georgian Manganese” with the support of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the organization East-West Management Institute.

The main aim of the project was to lobby improving ecological situation in the municipality and to minimize and eliminate environmental pollution by the existing objects, such as “Georgian Manganese”.

Project goals:

  1. Raising awareness of the local community about eco-consciousness and environmental protection.
  2. Increasing community engagement and support of environmental protection decision process
  3. Activating NGOs and obtaining support in this direction
  4. Improving Chiatura’s hard ecological condition
  5. Monitoring implementation of Georgian Manganese’s ecological commitments towards the state

Polluted drinking water and air, damaged road part of which is filled with ferroalloy plant leavings-slag,  manganese quarries, and all the other numerous problems:

  • Serious risk of health damage
  • Frequency of respiratory, cardiovascular and oncological diseases and the tendency of increasing the cases
  • Significant life quality decrease of local community
    • Due to the quarries left without owners community does not have pastures and crop lands
    • Due to negative impact of mines springs are lost
    • Drinking water is polluted
    • The soil cannot keep the water and crop capacity is decreased
    • Water is dammed in manganese and sand open quarries which became the reason of children drowning twice.

It is more than century manganum extraction is in Chiatura villages. From 1970s until 1990s madenulis mopoveba was done according to the rules but for the last 20 years, despite the technological progress, the rules are not followed.  Manganese quarries (abolished mines) are left out as enourmous structural basins without the owners. The suitable ore for manufacturing is completely extracted from the mines.

As specialist state, dust of heavy toxic metals, including phenol and nitrogen is dangerous for Chiatura population and eco-system.  

“ I can’t say if it is possible to live in this district…Until 1990s, when there was air quality measurer machine in Chiatura, phenol and nitrogen level was at the threshold level and sometimes it was above the norm. Now for sure there will be much worse condition since after 1990s recultivation of the soil have not taken place, nor air pollution level has been measured and we do not know what is the index, probably it is quite alarming… From the quarries located nearby hills of the city there are toxically dangerous substances which sediment in the city and its outskirts directly during heavy storms. “ – Chairman of “Chiaturians Union”, Shota Gaprindashvili.   

Since 2009 Chiatura manganese plant was assigned to Ukrainian investor with the right of 49-years management.  Company holding “Georgian Manganese” also includes Zestaponi ferroalloy plant. Based on the statements of the local population, the foreigner investor like his predecessors does not hurry up to recover the lands of open quarries.

According to the international standards, after extracting manganese from the soil the land recultivation must take place. As specialists explain, before manganese extracting work starts, the company should remove the beneficial layer and store it, then take out wrong layer and after that it should start the extracting process. In the end of the process wrong layer should be put in the open quarry and then they should add stored beneficial layer. At the territory of the mine იონჯა should be sown, the trees must be planted and during 3 years the soil should be fertilized. “This is the international standard, the commitment which was imposed to Georgian Manganese by the Ministry of Environment Protection though the company has not been fulfilling its commitment for years.” “

In addition to this, factory leavings is essential issue. As the local population say, the company throws the leavings, such as slag at Zestaponi ferroalloy plant. The people complained several times to the company but the company representatives explain based on the special commission’s conclusion that the slag is not harmful for the health.

Campaign

Campaign plan

In order to solve the problems and make “Georgian Manganese” to fulfill its commitment the association “Chiaturians’ Union” focused its advocacy campaign to the following target groups:

  • NGOs working in the field of ecology
    In order to achieve goals effectively with united efforts
  • Local community  

Since community activeness and speaking up is an important aspect for make an impact on “Georgian Manganese” and on governmental bodies as well, on the one hand, the imposed commitments must be fulfilled, on the other hand, implementing commitments should be demanded and controlled. 

  • Local municipal and central government
    In order to take measure for solving district problems
  • LTD “Georgian  Manganese”
    In order to start implementing the commitments for the district’s ecological system survival.

Despite the fact that there was a risk from the population of their inerness in their own right defense, the association did not expect that none of the citizens would attend the very first public meeting. As it turned out, the community did not believe that activities considered by the project would be reached and in case of their activities towards the local government, after the end of the project, they would be left alone in front of the government and LTD “Georgian Manganese”, thus they would have the problems.

The second risk what the campaign organizers realized was the indifferent attitude of the government and LTD “Georgian Manganese” towards the society opinion.

Due to the aforementioned risks, the association decided to collaborate with the other NGOs and use various means of communication and lobbying (public meetings, informational support, TV debates, broadcasts newspaper and issuing newspapers and booklets seminars and debates with the participation of NGOs, to make them interested and etc.) that would gain more global scale for the local problem.

Beside the main goal of the project, the advocacy campaign had another significant goal from which the quality of final results reachability . This midterm goal was to gain the trust of the local community and make them active. The association managed to increase the community’s engagement in the process that supported significantly to reach the final goals.  

The association determined the results well and it was certain that the district problem will not be solved by one advocacy campaign. They understand well that advocating this issue must be a long-term and non-stop process.

Implemented Work

Quite active advocacy campaign was implemented with the following directions:

  • There were door-to-door meetings in order to gain the trust of the local community
  • The meetings created an important basis for citizens’ engagement and ensured their active participation in the campaign and public meetings. (There were 43 public meetings and 689 citizens took part in).
  • Informational newspaper “Chiatureli” was printed by “Chiaturians’ Union” which was spread with 500 circulations of the copies in the population.
  • 200 circulations of booklets were printed depicting project activities
  • There was a banner in Chiatura with the following message: damaged environment, damaged city –informational activity and citizens’ engagement are needed to solve this.  
  • The topics connected with Chiatura ecological problems were permanently displayed in the local and central radio and TV informational programs and talk-shows, there were articles in the press.
  • Petition signs were done in the frame of the project which take into account the four demands around environmental protection issues. Overall, 2703 signatures were collected.
  • Various initiatives of the association were discussed at municipality  meetings that were supported.  
  • There were different NGOs with diverse forms and intensity:
  • “Green Alternative”
  • Kutaisi branch of Young Lawyers’ Association
  • Young Economists’ Association
  • New Civic Voice +
  • Imereti Youth Scientific Informational Association “Asa”
  • Caucasus Environmental NGO Network Association (CENN)

“Chiaturians’ Union” was holding public meetings, seminars, consultations and media activities (articles, talk shows) with the other NGOs.

Advocacy campaign became a large-scale one since the community was actively engaged. For instance, instead of planned 9 public meetings 43 meetings were conducted, instead of 2000 already 2703 people signed the petitions, instead of 2 TV broadcasts were done and etc.

During the public meetings with citizens the problem was shown which was not in the focus of the project. The issue was connected with bringing the slag and its storage at Sachkhere-Chiatura territory on the motive of road hideway. This activity caused the big dissatisfaction and discomfort due to its horrible smell in the sunny weather.   

It must be mentioned that advocacy campaign implementation plan did not take into account nor TV/radio advertisement, neither social media means though the detailed description of Chiatura district ecological problems are easily searchable by internet portals.

Achieved Results

We can say that advocacy campaign had totally objectivr and easily measurable results:

Population activity has increased. While in the beginning of the project, the community was passive and did not have any trust, as a result of project activities, citizens gradually created positive attitude and they were not only listeners, but the initiators. For example, they initiated the issue of learning and monitoring necessity of quartz sand quarries activities in the villages of Zodi, Darkveti and Mgvimevi. This was done partly though it was not considered in the project activities.  

Eco awareness level and citizens’ engagement in ecological issues increased in the society in the decision-making process, such as, signing petitions, participating in public meetings, seminars, TV broadcasts.

Hope has appeared in the society connecting with the solutions for the stored ecological problems in the district that was emphasized in their activities and desire to continue this advocacy process until resolving these issues.

As it was mentioned beforehand, another additional problem refers to bring slag and store it at the territory of Sachkhere-Chiatura.

Advocacy campaign and the community activity, as a result, got the following consequences:

  • Technical recultivation has started in 4 villages
  • Recultivation was planned and greenery at the city highland, Rang quarry
  • The bypass road repair was started
  • Landslide hazard process stop was planned in the area of village Sarkveletubani
  • Due to petitions municipality created Chaitura ecological week with association’s innitiaive
  • LTD “Georgian Manganese” has started fulfilling its obligations under the license terms

o As a result of the initiatives under the frame of the project the company announced a tender on the construction of river basins in order to prevent pollution at river Kvirila;

o Design work has begun for the construction of dams and water catchments on the Aglomerate Coast;

o LTD “Georgian Manganese” has committed to launch a large-scale recultivation process since 2012;

o LTD “Georgian Manganese” has committed to acquire an air and water sampling laboratory by 2012.

Association representatives consider that in the beginning they would start planning differently advocacy project, such as planned meetings with the community which were not enough and the number was increased in the process, also, media activity intensiveness increase was important  

The campaign could be more active towards LTD “Georgian Manganese” in the frame of their commitment implementations and make self-government body in a more active way in solving of human right and ecological issues.

Association “Chiaturians’ Union” continues to work on eco-problems eradication where community voice and citizens’ big support help a lot and it will become more diverse..