Advocacy for a Clean Environment in Poti
The USAID Civil Society Engagement Program supports the Poti-based CSO Human Rights and Social Justice Research Center in its civic engagement campaign for a cleaner environment in Poti.
The environmental problems are particularly severe in Poti’s industrial zone; harmful substances at the seaport terminal are processed in an open manner and then transported by open vehicles. Metallurgical plants also do not have proper air filters, which allows harmful substances to regularly be emitted into the air. This negatively affects the health of people living in adjacent areas. In 2021, the Human Rights and Social Justice Research Center conducted lab tests on the hair of 20 children living in contaminated areas. The results showed high levels of lead and other hazardous chemicals; further testing revealed an increased concentration of lead and copper in the soil in this area. Following public request, the Poti Municipality expanded its testing of children; however, it has yet to take any meaningful action to address the problem.
To coordinate advocacy efforts and ensure that people’s voices are heard, the Human Rights and Social Justice Research Center created a civic platform in 2020 called Poti Citizens for Their Rights. The platform, which works to mobilize environmentally concerned citizens, provides routine updates on the activities taking place in the industrial zone in Poti, engages people in civic monitoring, conducts bus tours to the affected areas, holds meetings with local government urging them to resettle families from the hazardous zones and carry out initiatives aimed at minimizing damage to the environment. In May, residents of Javakhishvili street in Poti held continuous rallies requesting an increase of compensation that the government offered them for relocation. Negotiations with the local government on compensation are currently underway.
On June 7, founder of the platform Eliso Janashia attended the annual meeting of the Board of Directors of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and presented recommendations for preventing and mitigating environmental damage from Poti’s new seaport expansion and modernization project, which is being funded by the DFC.