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Zurab Melikishvili, MP from the United National Movement, criticised the government for suspending large infrastructural projects at the plenary session held on 30 April 2014. The MP from the Parliamentary Minority referred to the Parliamentary Majority: ”No matter what name you call it Lazika or Anaklia, this project is suspended today. Despite the small scale, whatever infrastructure was there is being destroyed and degraded.”

FactCheck

took interest in the accuracy of the MP’s statement and sough to verify it.

In addition to checking into the stage of the deep port construction process in the vicinity of Anaklia, FactCheck

tried to figure out whether or not there is a difference between the Lazika and Anaklia ports.

According to the initially reported information, the construction of Lazika port, which the United National Movement had planned during its stay in power, should have been finished in the first half of 2015.

The Lazika port was designed to be the largest port on the Georgian coastline with its construction planned on 85 hectares of territory. GEL 535 million was considered as an estimated maximum cost of the project.

Besides the construction of Lazika port, the construction of Lazika city was also envisaged to be built between the Colchis Lowland in Anaklia and Kulevi. According to the government, Lazika was to be the second largest city after Tbilisi which would have functioned as a main trade-economic centre for Georgia. According to government calculations, at least a half-million were estimated to eventually live in the city. In addition to the port, an airport, touristic zone, business centre and residential living space were also planned. The opposition had been strictly criticising the idea of the construction of a new city. Bidzina Ivanishvili, leader of the Georgian Dream coalition, referred to this issue several times at his meetings with the electorate during his pre-elections campaign in advance of the 2012 Parliamentary elections. At a pre-election meeting in Ozurgeti, for example, he assessed the idea of the construction of the city as a whim of the then President. While speaking to the Russian edition of Forbes

magazine, Ivanishvili referred to the same projects as ‘jokes that no one was taking seriously.’

Prior to the approval of the government, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, then candidate for the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, did not exclude the possibility of interest in the project after his victory in the Parliamentary elections in 2012 should profitability of the construction of the port in Anaklia be demonstrated. Bidzina Ivanishvili, stated that he considered the construction of the port to be realistic, but assessed the idea of the construction of a new city as absurd.

Information about the funding for the construction of the Anaklia port was made available at a presentation by the Co-Investment Fund on 30 September 2013.

Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgia’s then Prime Minister, stated at the presentation that the port would be the largest in the country and would be able to handle 110 million tons of cargo per year. According to Ivanishvili, the government had been discussing several alternative projects related to the construction of a new port as well as the Lazika port project with the United National Movement was planning to do during its time in power. However, after the change of the government, this project was suspended. According to Ivanishvili’s assessment, “The Anaklia port beats the Lazika port because it is much bigger in terms of its capacity and, besides that, we will not have to drain the marsh which would damage the environment.”

The opposition responded to the Prime Minister through a special press conference as soon as the idea of the construction of the Anaklia port was made public. According to Giorgi Vashadze, MP from the Parliamentary Minority, the Anaklia port was being constructed in the same place where the former government was planning to construct the Lazika port. Vashadze stated: ”There is only one large canyon along this coastal strip where it is possible to construct the port which will be able to handle large-sized vessels and increase the country’s revenues. We wasted one year for nothing. During this one year, the port could have been in its completion phase.”

As for the construction of the Anaklia port, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Minister for Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, stated on 13 May 2014 that a tender would be announced by the end of the year concerning the construction of a deep port in the vicinity of Anaklia. According to him, the issue of where this port will be built in particular would be decided after the preparation of a preliminary report. Kvirikashvili stated: “This report will include information on technical details where the most favourable natural conditions are for the construction of a deep port. Probably, this is in the vicinity of Anaklia but identifying the exact place deemed to be the most favorable for the construction will be included in the report.” According to Kvirikashvili, the port costruction project will be financed entirely by private funds.

According to information presented by the Co-Investment Fund on 2 July 2014, a Japanese consortium of international experience in engineering consultancy, Oriental Consultants Company Limited which had been conducting a research on the Black Sea coast commissioned by the Partnership Fund, has already finished its work and selected Anaklia as the best place for the port. Irakli Kovzanadze, Executive Director of the Partnership Fund, stated that the port which will be built in Anaklia will be able to handle large-sized vessels (so-called Panamax dimensions).

According to the decision of the Economic Council of 2 July, expressions of interest in participating in the Anaklia port project will be announced from this week. According to the Partnership Fund’s management Group, the Fund already has the technical-economic justification for the new port as well as its initial design and a general construction plan.

In order to find out whether or not there is a difference between the Lazika and Anaklia ports as well as to get information about the priorities of the projects as well as their negative sides, FactCheck

talked to Giorgi Lominadze, Head of the Geomorphology and Geo-ecology Department at the Vakhushti Bagrationi Geography Institute of Tbilisi State University and, Irakli Papashvili, Head of the Maritime Group at the scientific-research firm, Gama Consulting Ltd.

As the experts noted during their discussions with FactCheck, the idea for building a port in the vicinity of Anaklia is not a new one. This proposal was discussed in 1976 in an article published in the Bulletin of the Georgian Academy of Sciences

which talked about the expected changes in the Georgian coastline as a result of the construction of the Enguri Dam. In this article, the construction of the port is considered as one of the means for using resources wisely and solving the shore protection problem. In particular, it would have been possible to restore any damaged shoreline as a result of sedimentfrom the Enguri River and, later, also to undertaken artificial regulation of coastal processes.

Archil Kiknadze, Doctor of Geographical Sciences, and Giorgi Metreveli, an architect, prepared a construction project for a port in the vicinity of Anaklia in the 1980s. Their proposal considered the construction of a port at the Enguri confluence, north of Anaklia, at a canyon located near the coast as a result of the Enguri River flowing into the Black Sea.

Irakli Papashvili recalled that the talks about the construction of a deep port had been ongoing during the first years of the United National Movement’s stay in power and Zurab Zhvania, Georgia’s then former Prime Minister, was taking an active interest in the idea.

After the government took the decision to construct the Lazika port, ILF Consulting Engineers, an Austro-German company, and Gama Consulting Ltd, Georgia-based, jointly determined alternative locations for the port. Archil Kiknadze’s idea about the location of the port, the south head of the Enguri Canyon, was chosen although Kiknadze’s project considered the construction of the port at the current confluence of the Enguri River beside the village of Ganmukhuri. According to Irakli Papashvili, the project proposal prepared by Gama Consulting Ltd considered the construction of the port with a capacity of 30 million tons which would also have had future prospects for expansion.

Spartak Eragia, an engineer, also has his own proposal for the construction of a port; more specifically, the Anaklia Transport Hub, located in the vicinity of Anaklia. This project considers the development of the port south of Anaklia, approximately 5 km away, in the area of the Churia River. Eragia told FactCheck

that he has been working on this project since 2001 and his proposal considers the construction of a port with a capacity of 100-120 million tons. His plan also uses the Enguri Canyon and considers cutting a channel to connect it to the canyon. In addition to Eragia’s proposed Anaklia Transport Hub, the project also considers setting up an airport, railway and other transport links as well as the construction of a liquefied natural gas plant.

FactCheck

talked to Iva Davitaia, former Head of the Strategic Development Agency, who was coordinating the Lazika project and asked about its stage of implementation process as well as the types of work being carried out in terms of port construction.

According to Davitaia, the project was not completed to the point which suits such a large-scale investment project during the time in which the former government was engaged in the work. He also indicated that it is impossible to answer detailed technical questions about the Lazika port due to the fact that the specific projects about the port’s construction were not discussed at the Strategic Development Agency and accordingly, there was no specific decision in favour of any of the projects.

Davitaia added that there is no difference between the Lazika and Anaklia ports. According to Davitaia’s explanation, the main idea for the Lazika port was to use the deep canyon located near Anaklia for the construction. Davitaia said that it is possible that the old and new governments assigned different configurations to the port’s layout, in terms of its volume and cargo handling, but in the end, he underlined, the port is still the same. It is true that there was no approved project for the port although, a general outline of a port that would handle 100 million tons of cargo did exist.

Davitaia further explained that both the Transport Fund and Georgian Railway also worked on the Lazika port project. They started preparing and announcing tenders for a feasibility study as well as a so-called master plan. These tenders were announced and activities reached a certain stage, although the work on the project stopped in October 2012.

Davitaia considers that time was wasted by government. In terms of the port construction project, especially in consideration of the fact that it remains in a preparatory stage some two years later.

FactCheck requested public information in order to identify the similarities and differences between the Anaklia and Lazika projects. However, we were unable to receive information from the President’s Administration, Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure. With the exception of some specific cases, FactCheck

requested copies of every recorded document about the Anaklia and Lazika ports from these Ministries; however, they once again responded that they do not possess these documents. It was only the Government’s Administration that replied but explained that the office did not have information about the Lazika port. The administration did provide us with documents concerning Lazika.

The information obtained from various Ministries supports the information offered by Iva Davitaia that specific project decisions were not taken as concerns the Lazika port construction project. Accordingly, if a specific Lazika port project was not selected and if it is not determined yet what type of configuration of port will be constructed in Anaklia, looking at the differences between Lazika and Anaklia ports are all without reason.

  Conclusion  As a result of the research conducted by FactCheck,

the idea for the construction of a deep port as well as the Enguri Canyon near the Anaklia shore forms the basis of a number of different projects and proposals concerning the construction of a port near Anaklia dating to the 1970s. The idea about the construction of the port dates back to 1970s.

As FactCheck

found out after speaking with relevant experts, the construction of the Lazika port was in its initial stage in 2012. Several project proposals were in existence, although no specific decision had been made as to the selection. In addition, preparatory work and initial reports were a necessary component for developing the final port construction project.

After the change of government in 2012, the work on Lazika had not been continued, although the project idea itself was not rejected. Despite that, the idea for the construction of a deeper port in Anakliawas introduced to society on 30 September 2013 by Bidzina Ianishvili approximately one year after coming to power. The government activated work on the port construction project dating from this time.

Currently, the government is working on attracting investments from interested companies and selecting projects for the purpose of the port construction project. However, this decision was made by the government one year after coming to power. As FactCheck has revealed,

the use of the Enguri Canyon located near Anaklia is a common feature for every concept of the Anaklia and Lazika port projects and is a fundamental similarity according to the information we obtained.

Accordingly, FactCheck concludes that MP Zurab Melikishvili’s statement, No matter what name you give it, Lazika or Anaklia, this project is suspended today,” is MOSTLY TRUE.

Originally published in The Financial, issue N. 29 (409)


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