City in the mind’s Eye

Lazika:

Even though the construction of the city of Lazika has already begun, all the concepts of it can still only be found in the officials’ imagination. Right now, there is neither the development plan and the budget, nor the environmental evaluation of the project, while this city is designed to be the second largest city in Georgia, and is supposed to amaze the world by its beauty, functionality and its own liberal economic policy.

The Ministry of Justice of Georgia, which for some strange coincidence is in charge of building Lazika, proudly promises to lodge the first inhabitants of the new city very soon, in just two years. The same ministry, however, admits that it still has no clear understanding of the new city’s concept. The ministry acknowledges also  that more details about the plan to build Lazika may come to existence not earlier than this autumn, when a certain special conference for investors takes place.

The area of the future city covers a part of the Kolkheti national park, which is protected by the Ramsar Convention, therefore, the journalists took a keen interest in the ecological aspect of the project.

The predictions of several ecologists the journalists met in the course of the mission, were quite dreary – if Lazika is built, the sea will flood a considerable part of the land and reach Kutaisi.

However, the journalists had had the opportunity to make sure that some experts’ predictions could be exaggerated – for example, in Tbilisi we were told that basements of the new hotels in the renewed resort Anaklia were already flooded, which apparently was not true: the journalists made certain that people lived in those hotels and everything was fine with basements there as well.

The journalists spent a lot of time communicating with the locals. An innocent bystander could have an impression that all the inhabitants of Lazika are either satisfied or very satisfied. On closer examination it was clear that people were simply afraid to get in trouble for being frank with journalists. Many of Anaklia’s residents were forced to yield parts of their land to the state. Representatives of both local and central authorities persuaded the journalists that every single person had been compensated.

However, human rights activists and local journalists told us about many violations, as result of which many land owners suffered.


Participants:

Samira Ahmedbeyli, Azadlyg newspaper, Baku
Alexander Avanesov, Arminfo news agency, Yerevan
Mariam Betlemidze, free-lance journalist, Tbilisi
Vadim Dubnov, RIA-Novosti news agency, Moscow
Beka Gomelauri, Mtsvane Talga radio channel, Tbilisi
Ani Hovasyan, Heqt news agency , Yerevan
Nijat Mustafayev, APA news agency, Baku
Nino Narimanishvili, Southern Gates newspaper, Akhaltsikhe
Zhanna Ulyanova, Gazeta.Ru, Moscow
Olesya Vartanyan, Ekho Kavkaza radio channel, Tbilisi

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