CSOs and Civic Activists Meet Local Residents in Chiatura Villages
On September 20, the USAID Civil Society Engagement Program and Public Movement Chiatura of the Future organized meetings for civic activists, CSOs, and journalists to discuss pressing issues with locals in several villages in Chiatura (Rgani, Khalipauri, Itkhvisi, Zodi). Residents of the village Tsirkvali also attended these informal meetings. After the meetings the activists and CSOs travelled to the village Mghvimevi to observe mining operations on site.
The visited Chiatura villages are home to manganese mining operations, which are conducted both in open pit quarries and underground mines. Many open pit quarries are located close to residential areas and cause numerous health and safety problems to locals. In addition to a threat of sustaining injuries close to the mining areas, harmful materials [substances] contained in lower layers of the ground pose a threat to the health of residents. The situation is particularly dire in villages like Khalipauri, where open pit quarries can be as close as 50 meters from schools or residences.
In addition to the environmental and health problems, residents also noted that they face challenges in protecting their houses and yards due to damage done by the manganese mining company. They also are often unable to adequately utilize arable land, forests, and social spaces like sports fields.
The CSOs, activists, and journalists provided consultations during the meetings. In addition to ongoing support for locals in the form of legal advice and assistance in communicating with the relevant government agencies, participants concluded that assistance to the area needs to be developed through a more systemic approach. They agreed to use these meetings as a launching pad for establishing a framework to move forward.
Participants in the meetings included Social Justice Center, Greens Movement of Georgia, Mountain Stories, Democracy Defenders, NACRES, Sabuko, CENN, Eco Club Chiatura, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Public Broadcaster, Indigo, Chiaturians Union, Salam Platform, Guild, and Gavigudet.