Citizen platform successfully advocates for 100 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) families in Poti to be resettled out of polluted area.
Insufficient regulation and safety measures at Poti’s seaport and expansive industrial zone have long caused hazardous conditions for locals. Harmful substances are openly processed and transported, and factories emit heavy metals into the air. A 2021 study revealed concerningly high levels of lead, copper, and colloidal silver in soil samples from the area, as well as in the blood of local children, further confirming the detrimental effects nearby industrial work is having on residents’ health.
In response to these problems, Eliso Janashia, a local activist and head of the Research Center for the Protection of Human Rights and Social Justice has been working to raise awareness and advocate on behalf of her community for over four years. In 2020, she formed the citizen platform Poti Citizens for Their Rights to mobilize environmentally concerned citizens and urge the local government to resettle families from hazardous areas.
After years of advocacy work, the group secured a guarantee from the Georgian government in August 2021 that 100 IDP families living on Javakhishvili Street – one of the most polluted areas of the city – would be offered alternative, safe housing. However, nearly two years on in the problem was still not solved.
Despite these protracted challenges, Poti Citizens for Their Rights continued to advocate for these families and raise awareness about their precarious living conditions. With support from the USAID Civil Society Engagement Program, the group has hosted film screenings, held bus tours to the most polluted areas of the city, and met with local government representatives, encouraging wider engagement around pressing community issues. Additionally, in May 2023, the platform supported residents of Javakhishvili Street as they convened community meetings to bring attention to dangerous living conditions and advocate for equitable terms regarding their resettlement.
In June, after more than three years of dedicated advocacy work, the local authorities in Poti met with residents of Javakhishvili Street and offered them compensation well above market value for their property. Eliso Janashia, the Platform founder says – “Our platform worked hard to raise awareness of this issue at both the local and national level,” she says. “But we also ensured that we engaged as many community members as possible in official processes like attending local council meetings, meeting with government representatives, lodging official complaints, and creating petitions. This humanized the issue and brought it into public discussions, which helped push the authorities to address it.”
Janashia expresses her hope that this victory will inspire more locals to engage in advocating for a cleaner Poti, as there is still much work to be done to protect the health of all citizens. Poti Citizens for Their Rights recently initiated a petition and is collecting signatures requesting the return of an air quality monitoring system that was installed in 2020 but was later removed. Officials had cited technical malfunctions as the reason for this removal.