How Batumi solved its water supply and sea pollution problems with EU support

18-07-2019

Nino Katamadze who lives with her large family in the Georgian town of Chakvi, says that 24-hour, uninterrupted supply of clean drinking water is of huge importance for her, as it is for the rest of the population.

Before the village transitioned to a new water supply system, the water pressure was not even high enough to operate a washing machine or a dishwasher. Interruptions of the water supply were common as well.

The entire city of Batumi, with its population of 165,000, and the surrounding area are supplied with water from the headstream of the Chakvistskali river, which flows just 10 metres from Nino’s house. There is no separate technical water supply in Chakvi and Batumi – the population is supplied only with drinking water.

“Water had become cloudy, dirty and undrinkable. The water supply schedule was irregular. We have had the new supply system and meters for one year already. Now, we have 24-hour clean water supply, and this is huge relief,” says Nino.

Now, Nino’s family is supplied with drinking water from a new reservoir in Chakvi, set up two years ago in the framework of financing from the EU and the German state-owned development bank KfW.

This 2,500 m³ capacity reservoir ensures uninterrupted water supply to 1,100 recipients. Over €900,000 was spent on the construction of the reservoir.   Alongside this, another smaller reservoir for reserve water supply, with a capacity of 900 m³, has been built in Chakvi under a separate project.

In the framework of the German-Georgian financial cooperation programme, KfW and the EU’s Neighbourhood Investment Facility provide the largest municipal infrastructural rehabilitation investment in Chakvi, Batumi and the surrounding territories. Rehabilitation of the municipal infrastructure has been going on for several years, and the works in Chakvi are now entering their third phase. It is in this phase that the co-funding from the EU begins.

The project implemented using the KfW financing and EU grant has ensured the rehabilitation of the water supply and partial rehabilitation of the sewage systems, as well as the construction of waste treatment plants on the territories of Chakvi, Makhinjauari and Mtsvane Kontskhi.

The EU allocated €4 million to the project, a substantial contribution which is reflected in the well-being of the population, cleanliness of the rivers and the sea. The total cost of the project amounted to €6.1 million, €2.1 million of which was provided by the KfW and Batumi Municipality mayor’s office.

Jaba Tughushi, Head of Batumi Municipality Department of Investment Policy and Grant Programme Management, says that in these settlements there were many illegal connections to the old water supply system, resulting in losses of large amounts of water from the Chakvistskali river headstream.

“Lost water would have been enough for a big city. Together with the rehabilitation of the water system, illegal connections were also cut off, and this was the guarantee for the 24-hour uninterrupted water supply to the population. Through the EU’s Neighbourhood Investment Facility, water meters are gradually being installed. Quality of water has improved as well, which would have been impossible without the reservoir. Both reservoirs of Chakvi are supplied by gravity flow of water from the main plant, and then water is distributed to the population,” says Jaba.

Zurab Mikeladze is responsible for the constant control of the reservoir’s water level and chloride concentration. He was previously trained on a special course for water reservoir operators and employed together with other operators.  

Besides Chakvi, which is part of the Kobuleti municipality, the water supply system has also been entirely renovated in Mtsvane Kontskhi and Makhinjauri. Like the part of Chakvi, these settlements are within Batumi’s borders. New water supply pipes were individually installed for all households at least 40 metres above sea level. The process of registering recipients in the network and installing meters is now underway.

Nugzar Papunidze, Head of the Integrated Environmental Management Department of Adjara Environment Protection Bureau, says that in Chakvi alone there were 18 places where sewage water was being illegally drained into the sea for years, making this settlement one of the most polluting sections of the coastline.

The problem was solved after the construction of the Chakvi sewage water treatment plant with EU and KfW financing. More than €400,000 was spent on setting up the treatment plant in line with European standards. It serves 1,200 households. All sewage water is collected here and fully, biologically treated, and the quality of its cleanliness is inspected before it is drained into the surface water.

Similar plants across the entire territory of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara will guarantee the highest quality seawater through proper operation of the sewage systems. The central treatment plant was constructed under the ongoing infrastructural rehabilitation project and is now in operation in Batumi; all the sewage systems of Batumi, Gonio and Kvariarti come together in this central plant. In 2019, for the first time ever, Batumi’s sewage waters are no longer being drained into the open sea.

Operator Hussein Nemsadze is one of the five employees of the Chakvi treatment plant. He says it is important for him to work to protect rivers, the sea and nature. He controls the equipment and is responsible for the quality of cleaned water before it is drained into the river.

The treatment plant in Chakvi is already fully functional. None of the water, which is purified using the plant’s equipment, is harmful for the environment.            

On Agmashenebeli street in Chakvi, individual connections are being set up to the new sewage network, from which polluted water is collected in the treatment plant.

Residents of Chakvi can apply to be connected to the central water supply and sewage system, free of charge. All costs are envisaged by the project and are financed mainly by the municipality and municipal enterprise “Batumis Tskali”.

Mamia Kochalidze, who lives on Agmashenebeli Street, says that an unstable water supply and disorderly, non-existing sewage system posed a serious problem for all the surrounding buildings.

“The pipes were blocked all the time, we suffered, cleaned them… The sewage pipes of the buildings were connected to old cesspits constructed by the communists. Sanitation was very poor… The old water and sewage system will be completely abandoned in neighbouring buildings, and we will be totally connected to the new system,” Mamia states.

24-hour water supply is crucially important in Chakvi, Mtsvane Kontskhi and Makhinjauri. Sea tourism is an important source of income for most of the population in these Black Sea coast settlements.

Many well-known beaches, as well as the unique tourist attractions of the Mtirala National Park and Batumi Botanical Garden are all close to the three towns.

Uninterrupted water supply, together with a clean environment and sea, is essential for increasing the number of tourists and holidaymakers in these areas.

Uninterrupted supply of quality water during the tourist season is also of great importance for Inga Jincharadze’s family, who live in Mtsvane Kontskhi. Some time ago, she was unable to water the green plants in her garden in the summer, and visitors to her guesthouse experienced discomfort due to the lack of water. Thankfully, the situation changed a year ago; the water is now clean and there is no longer a scheduled supply.

Many people were involved in the works to set up the new water supply and sewage systems in Chakvi, Makhinjauri and Mtsvane Kontskhi, financed through the EU’s Neighbourhood Investment Facility and KfW, and new jobs were created.

300-500 people were employed to register new recipients into the system and install meters, while many others were employed at the treatment plants and reservoirs.

The new water supply and sewage systems in Chakvi, Makhinjauri and Mtsvane Kontski, set up with the EU’s support, are part of a bigger project that aims to create an integrated water and sewage network in Batumi in line with modern European standards and managed from one desk.

In places with disorderly sewage systems, the population is forced to illegally connect sewage pipes to drainage pipes, which means contaminated water then flows into the surface waters without any filtration, posing a hazard to rivers, contaminating the environment and deteriorating the quality of seawater.

To make the new sewage system fully functional, a new project is being developed in Chakvi, Mtsvane Kontskhi and Makhinjauri, as well as in other territories linked to Batumi, including Khelvachauri, Kakhaberi, Mejinistskali and the Adlia-Airport settlement. This project is based on a preliminary agreement with the donors, namely KfW, and will be implemented using their financing.

 

Author: Ia Bobokhidze

Article published in Georgian by New Press.