Fight For The Fresh Air

Sopho Apriamashvili

“Everyone has the right to live in a healthy environment, to enjoy the natural environment and
public space. Everyone has the right to get full information about the state of environment”, -
This is a right defined by Article 29 of the Constitution of Georgia, however in some cities of
Georgia, people are fighting for this right. One of them is Rustavi which is surrounded by about
30 factories, the level of air pollution is about 77%.
To protect their and others` rights and solve the problem a group of civil activists called
“Gavigudet” has been fighting for two years. As the members of the movement explained, in
some cases their activity has yielded results, however in order to gain the main goal - to get a
bill on environmental responsibility, they are still struggling.
The point is that according to the promise of the Ministry of Environment Protection, the
mentioned bill was to be discussed in the Parliament in the spring session of 2020 and the
agency and the civil movement confirmed that everything was ready for that, but they still could
not attend the discussion of the bill for the spring session.
The reason for the postponement of the discussion of the bill was the late delivery of the bill to
the Parliament, for which the Ministry of Environment Protection is responsible for the
government, which approved the bill a month ago. Newscaffe contacted the Georgian
government to find out why the government failed to timely submit the bill to parliament, but we
have not received a response so far.

Consequences of air pollution
As the representatives of the "Gavigudet" movement explain, the 77% rate of air pollution
indicates that out of 365 days during the year, 77% of the days Rustavi population breathes bad
or very bad air.
According to the World Health Organization, polluted air can cause diseases such as ischemic
heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and even acute
lower respiratory tract infections in children.
As a result of these and other diseases caused by air pollution, up to 4.2 million people die each
year worldwide. In Georgia there is no research about how many people died because of air
pollution, however it is mentioned in the 2019 report of the Public Defender, that according to
the World Health Organization 2018 data Georgia ranks 70th in terms of deaths associated with
air pollution.
In addition, the report clarifies that According to the Sakvarelidze National Center for Disease
Control and Public Health, according to the calculations provided to Georgia by the World

Health Organization the combined adverse effects of air pollution on the health of the population
led to 6845 deaths in 2016.
Representatives of the civil movement "Gavigudet" explain that despite the lack of accurate
data, people around them in the city of Rustavi often have health problems that are associated
with air pollution.
For example, as the member of the civil movement Data Tsintsadze explains, he and almost all
his friends in Rustavi need special nasal drops to breathe freely. Tsintsadze connects this
problem with the high level of air pollution.
It is difficult to notice all this when you arrive in the center of Rustavi, but if you drive around the
center for about 10-15 minutes, you will reach an area where there are mostly old, half-ruined
factories, from which the emissions are released into the atmosphere. Around some of the
plants you will find soil made of dust about 50-70 cm high, which, presumably, has been
dripping for years. Despite the visual side of the factories and the pollution caused by them, they
still continue to work actively, and you will need to make a blanket to protect them from the dust
For the second year in a row, the civil movement "Gavigudet" has been fighting to reduce the
level of environmental pollution in the city of Rustavi for various years. Last year, they
purchased a special sensor to measure the level of air pollution in the city:When we measured with our sensor, about 700 meters from the existing booth [booth of the
Environmental Protection Agency], where there is no green area and where the transport
vehicles of the enterprises are moving, Our sensor showed 10 times more pollution, it turns out
that we are in a much worse situation than the measurement booth set up by the Ministry of
Environment Protection, said Data Tsintsadze, a member of the Gavigude movement.

Also, according to studies conducted by the World Health Organization, children are a
particularly vulnerable group in this regard. For example, in 2016, approximately 600,000
children worldwide were exposed to respiratory infections caused by air pollution. In this regard,
the situation is particularly poor in low- and middle-income countries, where 98% of children
breathe polluted air, in contrast to high-income countries, where the figure is equal to 58%.

In addition to physical damage, according to the World Health Organization in 2013, air pollution
caused $ 5 trillion in losses to the world economy.

What are the dangers of delaying the bill

The civil movement "Gavigud" sees a problem in the delay of the draft law on environmental
responsibility, whose members believe that the bill should be discussed before the elections, as
the pre-election environment in the country will be unstable, which will call into question its

"The practice of our country is that during the elections no one is interested in other issues than
politics, so we see some dangers, we also do not know how the newly convened parliament will
be formed, so we can neither say that this bill will pass the autumn session without a doubt, nor
that it will not pass, that is, we are stuck somewhere in the middle”, - told Data Tsintsadze, one
of the members of the movement.
The movement is also supported by the non-governmental organization Human Rights and
Monitoring Center (EMC). As Kote Eristavi, the director of the organization's social policy
program, told to us, the postponement of the discussion of the bill raises suspicions that the
government is trying to win the hearts of the business sector in the run-up to the elections:
“Given that this bill has been in place for a long time and the government has had a long time to
initiate it in parliament, the fact that it has been postponed to the autumn session raises
suspicions that this may be an attempt to win the heart of business in the run-up to the election”,
- told Eristavi.
Neli Kotrikadze, Deputy Head of the Environmental Supervision Department, told to us that if
the bill is approved, the business community will have to take various measures, which will be
associated with high costs. However the representatives of the business sphere are informed
about this and "there was no special resistance" from them.

What the bill provides

According to Kotrikadze, the current legislation is weak and does not provide adequate control
over environmental protection, which is drastically changing according to the bill.
The Gavigude movement and the Deputy Head of the Department of Environmental Supervision
explain that, along with all the other changes in the new bill, it is especially important:
Tighten sanctions for environmental damage
Installation of special sensors in the exhaust pipes of factories, which will immediately detect
excessive levels of air pollution

In order to reduce the damage already caused, specific enterprises will be obliged not only to
compensate the loss in monetary terms, but also to develop appropriate measures, as a result
of which they will try to reimburse the damage caused

In the event of significant damage to the environment, enterprises are required to create sound
financial guarantees that, if damage occurs, they will have adequate funds mobilized to
eliminate this damage in the short term

The Harm Prevention Mechanism obliges the operator to immediately notify the Environmental
Supervision Department in the event of an imminent threat of damage to the environment and to
take all necessary measures to mitigate / prevent the damage

At the same time, according to Kotrikadze, the buildings of some factories, as well as in some
cases the infrastructure are outdated. For example, some enterprises in Rustavi pollute the air
not only through the exhaust pipes, but also directly from the building, because the tightness is
not protected.
In case of adoption of the bill, the enterprises will not be able to work in similar conditions,
therefore, after the approval of the draft law (January 1, 2022), the enterprises will be able to
correct the existing violations
Also, according to Kotrikadze, at this stage, enterprises have the right to conduct self-monitoring
at will, both in an instrumental and through method, which allows them to disseminate
inaccurate data:

“Computational monitoring does not give us a realistic picture, as at this time enterprises can
perform instrumental calculations and enter data on conditionally obtained raw materials and
manufactured products and therefore determine the amount of harmful substances released into
the air, in which case enterprises can enter the desired data and hide the real image” -
Explained Kotrikadze.

In case this real picture reveals any violations, the enterprises will be fined a large amount,
which, according to Kotrikadze, will be one of the most important steps forward in resolving
environmental issues.