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On 12 October 2013, in her talk with journalists, Nino Burjanadze discussed the shift in the government’s position on the issue of the Khudoni hydroelectric power plant. In the interview she stated:  “The pre-election programme of the Georgian Dream states that the Khudoni [power plant] will not be built. Either they were not being sincere and competent and wrote these promises in the programme offhandedly, or they should be so kind to explain to the public why they changed their position so radically.”

FactCheck

set out to check the accuracy of the statement.

Construction of a dam on the River Enguri was initiated in 1986 but was discarded soon afterwards due to ensued protests. In 2011 the Georgian Government decided to resume the construction of the hydroelectric power plant. Then Prime Minister, Nika Gilauri, expressed himself with regard to this issue before the meeting

of the Government held on 21 April 2011. An agreement on the construction of the Khudoni HPP was signed on 28 April 2011 between the Georgian Government and Trans Electrica Ltd, Trans Electrica Ltd (Georgia), Energotrans Ltd and the Electricity System Commercial Operator Ltd.

Discussion on the issue of the Khudoni HPP was renewed in the current year. In response to the protests of the public and the population of the village of Khaishi, Kakha Kaladze, Minister of Energy stated:  “Not only will we build the Khudoni [HPP] but other large hydroelectric power plants will undoubtedly be constructed as well.”

It is noteworthy that the area designated for the Khudoni HPP project encompasses 14 settlements and 184 households. The populations of seven villages will have to be resettled while flooding will cover both churches of Khaishi and Tobari as well as the graveyards.

In her statement Nino Burjanadze refers to the 2012 Parliamentary elections’ programme of the election block of Bidzina Ivanishvili – Georgian Dream. A paragraph in Chapter Four of the block’s programme, “Environment Protection and the Rational Use of Natural Resources,” discusses the prohibition of large HPP construction. In particular, it envisages the following measures: “Considering high seismic indices, prohibition of large hydroelectric and nuclear power plants; Support of alternative and renewable energy sources; Promotion of such individual systems in the population; Enforcement of government programmes aimed at increasing energy efficiency; Bearing in mind the growing demand on electricity in the country and the environmental protection standards, support of micro and small HPP construction and rehabilitation of existing HPP.”

In order to establish whether or not the construction of the Khudoni HPP contradicted the pre-election promises of the Georgian Dream, we inquired about the dimensions of the project. The preliminary edition of the report issued in July of 2013 evaluating the impact of the Khudoni HPP on the environment clarifies that the project proposed by Trans Electrica Ltd envisages the construction of a 702 MW Khudoni hydroelectric power plant complex in the narrow ravine of the River Enguri on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus mountain range. The height of the arch dam reaches 194 meters.

According to the definition provided on the website of Hydro International,

a large dam is considered to be higher than 15 meters while a major dam is defined to go beyond 150 meters in height. Therefore, considering this definition, the Khudoni HPP can be counted among the large power plants while the construction of plants of this size was supposed to be banned in the case of the Georgian Dream’s winning the Parliamentary elections.

Conclusion Nino Burjanadze rightly claims that the prohibition of large HPP constructions was discussed in the programme of the Georgian Dream. The programme does not address the Khudoni HPP project in particular but according to the measurements indicated above the project is considered to be of a ‘large’ size. Therefore, the presidential candidate’s statement:  “The pre-election programme of the Georgian Dream states that the Khudoni [power plant] will not be built. Either they were not being sincere and competent and wrote these promises in the programme offhandedly, or they should be so kind to explain to the public why they changed their position so radically,” is TRUE.