Constructing a highway in Imereti at the expense of the local population’s private property
The Roads Department of Georgia is working on the construction of a bypass road to Kutaisi. Within the frameworks of this project, the construction of a highway through the village of Chongari in Terjola region is planned in the Zestafoni-Kutaisi-Samtredia alignment. The residents of the village contacted Transparency International Georgia and stated that their private property rights were being infringed by the construction of the aforementioned highway. TI Georgia’s lawyers visited western Georgia on the 14th of November and met the residents of Chongari. According to the locals, they were contacted a year ago by the Kutaisi office of the Road Department and told that the government needs their arable lands for the fulfillment of the project. The representatives of the Road Department also suggested that the locals take care of all problems related to their land holdings before the commencement of the expropriation process. The locals found reasonable the offered reimbursement for their lands and with the Road Department’s active assistance they addressed the Public Registry and finalized their ownership documents. The situation has changed drastically within the last several months. According to the locals, the Road Department has been contacting them by phone and summoning them to the Public Service Hall of Kutaisi. Upon arriving, the land owners were asked to hastily sign documents that gave over their land property to the government. They were put under pressure to either agree to the offered compensation or receive no reimbursement at all. The Road Department representatives also made threats to sack their relatives and friends from public positions unless the documents were signed. The locals were persuaded that from a legal standpoint they had no right to complain about this matter. The aforementioned methods of persuasion worked on some of the land owners; to date these people have no idea about the provisions of the document they were pressured into signing. They were promised that they would receive their compensation within a week; however some land owners haven’t received any reimbursement within a month of signing the agreement. There is no clear understanding of the criteria used to determine the compensation for land plots; reimbursements for neighboring, analogous land plots significantly vary. Moreover, the land plots are being parceled and the highway split into two parts, which significantly devalues the land and renders it useless for utilization. The Road Department, in turn, refuses to acquire the devalued lands that they don’t require for the fulfillment of their construction project. Transparency International Georgia calls on the Road Department of Georgia to guarantee the expropriation process in conformity with law and ensure that the locals are not pressured in any manner. Transparency International Georgia continues to observe the developments and expresses readiness to provide legal assistance to the locals on this matter.