The EU has been supporting environmental initiatives in different regions of Georgia for many years through a number of projects.
One such project was launched in 2019 – ‘Establishment of biosphere reserve as a model for inclusive and sustainable growth at local level in Kakheti region’. It aims to support the establishment of biosphere reserves in Kakheti, eastern Georgia, which includes the Tusheti and Vashlovani biosphere reserves.
The project has established a multilateral cooperation platform and working groups, involving the local government in Kakheti. It is in the process of developing the legal and institutional framework for the Vashlovani Biosphere Reserve, which is located in Dedoplistsqaro Municipality. The collected documentation will be submitted to UNESCO to nominate the region to receive a biosphere reserve status.
Lali Tevzadze, project coordinator at the Regional Environmental Centre for the Caucasus, says that preparing the full documentation is not possible without the involvement of the local municipality, as it requires information known only to the local population.
Nikoloz Janiashvili, mayor of Dedoplistsqaro, explains the importance of the biosphere reserve for the region:
„One of the pearls of Georgia, the Vashlovani protected area, is located in Dedoplistsqaro Municipality. A biosphere reserve is a kind of continuation of the protected area. The difference is that there are fewer restrictions in a biosphere reserve and, therefore, less potential conflict between nature protection and economic activities. The local population can benefit greatly from the biosphere reserve. The new status will allow the inhabitants of Dedoplistsqaro to maintain and protect the environment while getting involved in sustainable businesses. Meanwhile, this will increase the interest of the business sector in the region, which will lead to economic growth. Considering all these factors, the biosphere reserve is a great opportunity to increase the economic and tourism potential of Dedoplistsqaro.”
Two infrastructure projects are planned to be implemented in Dedoplistsqaro, to raise awareness amongst the local population.
Amiran Kodiashvili is an environmental expert with 30 years of experience in environmental protection and the manager of this project. He never misses a chance to share his experience with his colleagues and the locals. Amiran says that involving the local population in the biosphere reserve establishment process is very important:
“If the local population is environmentally friendly, this will help us gain a biosphere reserve status. That’s why, we have to explain to the locals that the land is not just a patch of earth, it is a living environment, an ecosystem where life is in full swing. The infrastructure projects aim to inform people about this. We will open a biosphere reserve information centre in the municipality building, where we will disseminate print materials, information brochures and photos of Dedoplistsqaro’s biodiversity.”
Amiran believes the role of the information centre is very important. The centre will have an interactive board with information about events and projects taking place in the municipality, related to the attainment of a biosphere reserve status.
Another small infrastructure project, implemented with EU support, is a bird observation tower. The tower is located near the Artsivi (Eagle) Gorge Natural Monument.
“The bird observation tower will be open to the public, allowing people to watch the beautiful birds in Artsivi Gorge with special observation equipment. This will give them the chance to develop a love for nature,” says Amiran.
According to Lali, the project team needs to work hard on preparing the relevant documentation while also implementing the infrastructure projects, since awareness raising is a long process.
“We expect to submit the full documentation in December 2020. Within three months after that, we will receive comments from the Committee, which we need to address. This will be a fairly long process. We think that approximately in two years’ time, the region will eventually receive a biosphere reserve status,” says Lali.
The project is implemented by the Regional Environmental Centre for the Caucasus with the support of the municipalities of Akhmeta, Telavi and Dedoplistsqaro, as well as the EU and the German Government. The project is coordinated by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia.
Author: Tamar Kuratishvili
Article published in Georgian by qartli.ge.