On 21 December 2017, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili named illegal wood production as one of the most important challenges. He also noted that the Government of Georgia recognizes this challenge and condemns such acts. Furthermore, the government plans to, on the one hand, tighten control and, on the other hand, timely create necessary alternatives.
CENN emphasizes the great importance of the position of the Government of Georgia and believes that the Prime Minister’s appeal is in full compliance with the forms and scope of the government response required by the current challenges in the forestry and energy sectors. The urgency and the priority of the issue is due to the following circumstances:
Consumption of Georgia’s forests for social and energy purposes is four times higher than legally allocated volumes and dramatically exceeds the potential of sustainable use of the country’s main natural resources.
This is demonstrated by the research carried out using the methodology coordinated with state agencies. The findings of the research reveal that 400 thousand families living in regions of Georgia (excluding Adjara) consume more than 2,400,000 m³ of firewood per year. Firewood is mostly consumed by the private sector, budgetary organizations and churches. In order to satisfy this demand on firewood, the state will allocate 600,000 m³ of firewood resources on average, which is only 25-30% of the total demand. The remaining part is obtained illegally without adherence to any norms at easily accessible areas. Due to this, mountain forest ecosystem with high conservation value is irreversibly degraded. Erosion and abrasion processes are developing in the forests. Landslides, mudflows, raging mountain torrents and avalanches cause damage to the population, state infrastructure and economy. Human victims are frequent. The number of eco-migrants increases. Degradation of forest ecosystems and catchment basins results in such grave environmental problems such as drying of rivers and pollution and deficiency of drinking water. Forests in large cities are destroyed in drinking water basins, including those in Tbilisi. The situation is quite severe in resort areas. The biodiversity of world importance is in danger. In the long run, adjacent priority sectors, in particular, agriculture and hydropower are under the risk. Basic natural resource and economic development potential is gradually lost.
Along with the irrational wood production, consumption is extremely ineffective, which adversely affects human health. According to research conducted by International Energy Agency, Georgia has the highest death rate due to air pollution.
The research indicates that the reason for that is the usage of solid fuels/firewood, which causes a high level of air pollution inside the building. The World Health Organization also provides a list of diseases that are associated with this kind of air pollution and endanger human life.
CENN shares the position of the Government of Georgia on the need for qualitative changes in the forest sector and believes that in order to achieve these objectives the establishment of the proper coordinating mechanism is inevitable. Along with such mechanism, there is a need for establishment of a comprehensive approach to ensure environmental protection, social and energy security, education and awareness raising, technology development, demand for alternatives and stimulation of production.
At this stage, CENN, with the financial support of the Austrian Cooperation Development (ADC) and under the patronage of forest management agencies, is preparing a state plan for providing heating resources for the population and budgetary organizations in which the list of events will be directly defined by the state authorities, in particular by the sectoral agencies.
At the same time, there is an ongoing working process of synchronizing forest management system with the state priorities to reduce social and energy pressure. Besides, there is the need to establish institutional and financial-economic models that ensures the growth of its financial and economic potential.
We think that such approaches will significantly contribute to the systematically proper management and coordination mechanisms of forest resources.
CENN supports the position of the Head of the Government and plans to organize a high-level coordination meeting in the nearest future where the representatives of the Government of Georgia, as well as international and civil society organizations will be invited.