On 26 July 2014, at the Committee Meeting of the Parliament, the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Georgia, Kakha Kaladze, spoke about the alleged alteration of the Mtkvari River streambed. According to the Minister, there is a danger of the Mtkvari River streambed being altered and Georgia does not have any legal leverage to prevent this process.


took interest in this topic and verified the Minister’s statement.

The Mtkvari River, the longest in the South Caucasus, originates on the territory of Turkey at the eastern slope of the Kizil-Giyaduk Mountain. Its total length equals 1,515 km and it passes through three countries: Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. The length of the Mtkvari River is the greatest in Azerbaijan (906 km). In Georgia, the river is 400 km long whilst its length reaches 210 km in Turkey.

The Mtkvari River is crucial for both Georgia and Azerbaijan. The river and its confluences account for irrigating more than 315 ha of area in Georgia whilst this area amounts to as much as 1 million ha in Azerbaijan. Besides its irrigational function, the Mtkvari River is important for both countries from a hydroelectric point of view as it is home to important hydroelectric power stations such as Zahesi, Ortachalhesi, Chitakhevhesi and Mingachevir. Altering the Mtkvari River basin will surely cause problems to these power stations built upon the river and, thus, to all of the consumers of the electricity produced by these power stations.

On 20 January 2012, within the framework of the Tbilisi Energy Forum, the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Turkey, Taner Yıldız, confirmed that a cascade of water reservoirs named Beşik Haya would be constructed in the Ardahan province. The idea of building the hydroelectric power station has existed since 2011. It is worth noting that if the project had been implemented, the inter-basin transfer from the Mtkvari River to the Chorokhi River would have been considered as a possibility. According to the reports of various environmental organisations, implementing this project would block the Mtkvari River on the Turkish-Georgian border preventing the river from entering and passing through Georgia.

The leader of the Green Party, Giorgi Gachechiladze, stated to Radio Tavisupleba in 2012 that if the Mtkvari River were blocked near the Turkish border, there would be no water in the Mtkvari streambed 5-10 km away from the Georgian border until small rivers located in Georgia joined it. The Mtkvari is the main hydro-artery of Eastern Georgia and so blocking it would cause a water deficit and a restricting of the irrigation of agricultural land. As Mr Gachechiladze stated, this would also cause problems for Azerbaijan in that the country receives most of its water resources from the Mingachevir water reservoir which is fed by three rivers – the Iori, Mtkvari and Alazani. The leader of the Green Party also stated that the amount of water in the Mingachevir reservoir would be reduced by 10% if the project is implemented.

On 20 January 2012, whilst attending the Tbilisi Energy Forum, the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Turkey, Taner Yıldız stated: “…The Mtkvari is very important to Georgia. Therefore, we had meetings with the Minister of Energy of Georgia regarding this project (Beşik Haya). We are trying to affect the environment as little as possible and avoid any ecological problems. We should find an equilibrium during the implementation of the project and, trust me, there is nothing to be worried about. Currently, there is work being carried out and a draft project already exists.” According to Mr Yıldız, there was technical work in progress by that time but it would have neither altered the streambed of the Mtkvari River nor caused ecological problems. At the same Forum, the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Georgia, Aleksandre Khetaguri, stated that an agreement had been reached and the utilisation of Mtkvari resources would have been done without altering the streambed. Of note is that on 21 January 2012, the then President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, stated that the Georgian and Turkish sides reached an agreement on building a hydroelectric power station on the border without altering the streambed of the Mtkvari River. There has been no talk about building the Beşik Haya

since then.

On 22 July 2014, Giorgi Gachechiladze spoke about Beşik Haya in an interview with Kviris Palitra.

According to him, the Government of Turkey announced a tender offer for construction work on a hydroelectric station and declared that if the project were implemented, the Mtkvari River would no longer cross through Georgia. A few days later, on 26 July, journalists addressed the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources with the question of whether or not Georgia has any legal leverage to avoid the inter-basin transfer from the Mtkvari River to the Chorokhi River. Kakha Kaladze replied that the danger was real and that Georgia had no legal leverage to stop the construction of the hydroelectric power station. The Minister also noted that there were negotiations with the Turkish side on this matter. “In the next week, my deputy is going to Turkey concerning this project. I’m sure that we will reach an agreement and implement joint projects as well – ones that will not cause any problem regarding the Mtkvari River. I hope that the problem will be solved in a positive way,” stated Mr Kaladze.

In 1992 the Convention

on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes was signed in Helsinki. The aim of the Convention was to protect and sustainably manage rivers and ground waters. The Convention obliges members to use transboundary watercourses in a reasonable and fair way and provide for their sustainable management. The sides having transboundary watercourses must establish joint bodies upon the basis of an agreement. The Convention also includes monitoring, development, consultations, warning and alarm systems, mutual aid and data exchange. The Helsinki Convention could have been one of the solutions for the situation but neither Georgia nor Turkey are members of the Convention. Therefore, the rules and principles established by the Convention are unable to settle the issue between Georgia and Turkey on the transboundary watercourse at this stage.

FactCheck contacted the former Minister of Environmental Protection and the Head of the Greens Movement – Friends of the Earth,

Nino Chkhobadze. According to her, the Convention (Конвенция о водопользовании на пограничных реках, речках и ручьях Союза Советских Социалистических Республик и Турецкой Республики), signed by Turkey and the Soviet Union in 1927 and restricting blockage of the runoff water and artificially altering the level of water, gives the Georgian side an opportunity to conduct negotiations with the Government of Turkey. Even though the agreement was signed by Turkey and the Soviet Union, as Ms Chkhobadze indicates, the contractual obligations are still in force because Georgia is a successor of the Soviet Union. She also states that on 23 March 1998 the Agreement on Cooperation in the Environmental Sphere was signed by Georgia and Turkey with this treaty giving Georgia legal leverage to conduct negotiations with the Turkish side with the aim of avoiding ecological hazard.


also contacted the Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Irakli Khmaladze, and took interest in the ongoing negotiations between Turkey and Georgia on the construction of the Beşik Haya hydroelectric power station. According to the Deputy Minister, there are negotiations in progress about Beşik Haya’s alternative project, Gürj-Türk, according to which the hydroelectric station should be built on the border streambed of the Mtkvari River. The alternative hydroelectric station produces nearly 710 kWh electricity whilst Beşik Haya produces 732 kWh. As Mr Khmaladze says, a formal agreement has not yet been reached at this stage of the negotiations.

To our question of whether or not the Government of Georgia has any legal leverage on the matter of building the Beşik Haya station and can it accept the alteration of the Mtkvari River’s streambed, Mr Khmaladze replied that the Georgian side does not have such leverage because as far as he is aware, no international convention or agreement forbids Turkey to construct a hydroelectric station on its own territory. The Deputy Minister explained that the country in which a river’s source is located is authorised to use 50% of the river’s stream at its discretion. For the Beşik Haya

construction work, Turkey only alters one-fifth of the Mtkvari River’s stream and the streambed of the Mtkvari is not going to be closed. Hence, neither the 1927 Kars Convention nor the aforementioned 1998 Agreement provides Georgia with legal leverage as the Mtkvari River’s streambed will not be blocked but only one-fifth of it will be directed in a different path. As for the 20 January 2012 agreement between the Ministers of Energy of Georgia and Turkey, Irakli Khmaladze noted that the Ministers signed the protocol on future cooperation and established a working group although negotiations on the final formal agreement remain incomplete.

Of note is that according to Article 1 of the 1927 Convention, its regulations only cover those parts of the rivers that follow the USSR-Turkey border. Therefore, this convention cannot cover the whole streambed on both the Turkish and Georgian sides. This said, however, the Convention’s articles can still refer to Beşik Haya as the difficulties created by the construction of the station are directly connected to the equal distribution of the water in the Mtkvari River’s streambed. Articles 4, 7 and 9 of the 1927 Convention concern rivers, including the Mtkvari. Article 4 refers to the control of the water level by the parties. Precisely, it refers to creating hydrometric stations that will measure and control the water level near the border. In addition, Article 7 of the Convention concerns the artificial alteration of a river’s thalweg[1].

Specifically, the Article states that: “Neither of the contracting parties can artificially alter the river’s thalweg. In the case of the border rivers skewing from their streambeds, in parallel with the timely notification of the other contracting party, both parties retain the right to carry out regulating and correctional work on both sides of the abovementioned rivers.” Article 9 of the Convention concerns the regulation of building water pumps on the Mtkvari River. It states: “Each party has the right to build a water pump provided that it will use only its share of the water.”

Remarkably, the Convention entitles both Georgia and Turkey to use only 50% of the water flowing through the streambed. At the same time, the Convention gives certain mechanisms for controlling the water level in the Mtkvari River whilst Article 7 directly prohibits altering the rivers’ (in this case, the Mtkvari’s) thalweg artificially. Therefore, if building Beşik Haya

causes the alteration of the Mtkvari’s thalweg, it will be a violation of Article 7 of the Convention. In such a situation, both countries have the right to implement Article 4 of the Convention and establish a working commission responsible for problem issues and taking certain decisions.

According to Irakli Khmaladze, the project as proposed by the Turkish side comes in accordance with the articles of the 1927 Convention. At this stage, however, FactCheck

could not find research where the issue of thalweg level alteration would be studied.

Conclusion The project of constructing Beşik Haya

has been in existence since 2011. In 2012, at the Energy Forum that took place in Tbilisi, the Ministers of Energy of both Georgia and Turkey stated that the parties agreed upon starting negotiations about constructing an alternative hydroelectric station in order to avoid the transfer of the Mtkvari River’s streambed to the Chorokhi River.

As noted above, the usage of transboundary natural resources including rivers is regulated by the 1992 Helsinki Convention but neither Turkey nor Georgia are members of this Convention. Two treaties concern environmental issues between Georgia and Turkey; namely, the 1927 Convention (Конвенция о водопользовании на пограничных реках, речках и ручьях СССР и Турецкой Республики) and the 1998 Agreement on Cooperation in the Environmental Sphere. According to the Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Irakli Khmaladze, the obligations stemming from these agreements do not cover the construction of the Beşik Haya station because it will only cause one-fifth of the Mtkvari River’s stream to be transferred to the Chorokhi River in the case of project implementation and will not block the Mtkvari’s streambed at all according to environmental organisations. The country holding the source of a river is authorised to use 50% of its stream. Thus, as Mr Khmaladze believes, the Turkish side formally does not violate any convention or agreement.

On the other hand, the pathos of Kakha Kaladze’s statement cannot be considered as accurate because the articles of the 1927 Convention imply legal leverage to avoid the alteration of the Mtkvari River’s streambed. If the construction of Beşik Haya violates Articles 7 and 9 of the Convention, Article 4 allows the country to settle the issue in a legal way. Therefore, the Georgian side does have legal leverage to avoid an inter-basin transfer of the Mtkvari River to the Chorokhi River but only in the case of the construction of Beşik Haya violating the obligations stemming from the Kars Convention.

FactCheck concludes that the statement of the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Kakha Kaladze, “As for the danger of the Mtkvari [River] being transferred to the Chorokhi [River], it has existed and still does… although, we don’t have any legal leverage to avoid it” is HALF TRUE.


The line connecting the lowest elevations within a valley or watercourse.