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A member of the United National Movement, Nika Melia, on air on Rustavi 2, talked about the situation in regard to the Botanical Garden and the construction of the highway connecting Krtsanisi and Shindisi. Mr Melia stated: "Ivanishvili tore out 29 hectares from the middle of Tbilisi and took that land for himself. This territory was put on auction in advance. However, the construction on the new highway connecting Krtsanisi and Shindisi had already started two or three weeks ago. Public funds were used to cut down 540 trees as a part of this project. Additionally, GEL 700,000 was spent to relocate the natural gas pipeline and the road construction work was to be continued. Now, the road is being built in another place and an additional 700 trees need to be cut down. On 19 April 2016, Tbilisi City Hall concluded a contract with a new company to pay GEL 1,300,000 to further relocate the already relocated natural gas pipeline because the project was changed."

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took interest in the accuracy of the statement.

On 11 March 2016, a contract was signed between Tbilisi City Hall and Sakgazmetsniereba Ltd concerning the Krtsanisi-Shindisi connecting highway project. The cost of the contract was assessed at GEL 35,000. In April 2016, the author of the Krtsanisi-Shindisi project presented Tbilisi City Hall with a list of the trees to be cut down (in order to widen the highway) and others to be replanted in a new location. Specifically, 394 trees needed to be cut down and 154 would be replanted elsewhere. On 20 November 2015, a contract was signed between Tbilisi City Hall and Tbilisi Anano da Gio Ltd according to which this company would be responsible for cutting down and uprooting the trees as a part of the preparatory work for the construction of the Krtsanisi-Shindisi connecting highway. Tbilisi City Hall allocated GEL 36,248 for this purpose.

Of further note is that the gas pipeline network needed to be relocated as a part of the project owing to its close proximity to the highway. According to the contract concluded on 1 November 2015, AWARD Ltd was responsible for carrying out the relocation of the gas pipeline situated on the new highway’s territory. The cost of the contract was GEL 618,000.

On 22 April 2016, the Property Management Agency put a land plot of 29 hectares in size, located at the site of the construction of the Krtsanisi-Shindisi connecting highway, up for auction. The initial price of the land plot was GEL 6,233,000. In parallel with the auction, the Krtsanisi-Shindisi connecting highway project was also changed. Initially, part of the highway was to be built in the middle of the aforementioned 29-hectare land plot. Ultimately, the project was amended and part of the highway will be built in a different location. The Mayor of Tbilisi, David Narmania, does not deny that the change to the Krtsanisi-Shindisi project was related to the land auction. On 7 May 2016, on air on Imedi TV, Mr Narmania stated: "The initial Krtsanisi-Shindisi connecting highway project was changed. The middle part of the highway was to be built in the location of the 29 hectare land plot. However, after making a significant investment within this territory, we decided to build a part of the highway, approximately one-third of its full length, somewhere else."

On 3 May 2016, the 29-hectare land plot (close to the Krtsanisi-Shindisi highway) was purchased by the Georgian Co-Investment Fund for GEL 6,326,495. Only one stakeholder participated in the auction. As a result of these changes to the initial project, 702 trees will be affected (493 trees will be cut down and 219 will be replanted in a new location) in order to resume the construction work on the highway at a cost to the Tbilisi budget of an additional GEL 104,956. Moreover, it is necessary to relocate the natural gas pipeline network located on the project’s territory. To this end, a new contract was concluded between Tbilisi City Hall and AWARD Ltd on 19 April 2016. This company will be responsible for carrying out the pipeline relocation work with a total cost of GEL 1,314,139.

According to the contract concluded on 18 April 2016, Geo Group Ltd is carrying out the construction work. The total cost of the contract is GEL 4,993,986.

Conclusion

Within the initial Krtsanisi-Shindisi connecting highway project, 394 trees were cut down and 154 were replanted in a new location, at a cost of GEL 36,248, in order to widen the highway. Apart from that, work conducted to relocate the gas pipeline adjacent to the highway was also undertaken (before the changes to the project, almost half of the work activities were completed). The cost of the gas pipeline relocation was estimated to be GEL 618,000. Therefore, approximately GEL 654,248 was spent from the budget for the preparation work within the framework of the initial project. On 22 April 2016, a 29-hectare land plot was put up for auction and subsequently purchased by the Georgian Co-Investment Fund. At the same time, the location of a portion of the highway was changed which then required another relocation of the gas pipeline at a cost of GEL 1,314,139. The changes to the project also resulted in 702 trees being affected at an additional cost of GEL 104,956.

FactCheck concludes that Nika Melia’s statement is TRUE.