Foul Fish Odour – Unresolved Problem in Poti
The foul odour caused by the processing of fish has been bothering the population of Poti for years. The fish odour appears during the season of processing European anchovy which lasts from November until February. The population occasionally stages protest rallies but the problem remains unresolved. The shareholders of three out of four fish processing companies operating in Poti have links with the incumbent and former ruling parties and have made donations to them.
According to Poti residents, the foul odour spreads due to the following reasons:
- Fish is transported from ships to the plants using trucks that are not properly equipped. The water contaminated by fish blood is being spilled during transportation, polluting the roads in addition to spreading the smell;
- The steam generated by the production process is emitted into the air while the water used for processing and the waste are dumped into Rioni and Kaparchina rivers.
The Waste Management Code of Georgia requires that waste is managed without posing a threat to the environment and people's health in such a manner that:
- It is not hazardous for water, air, soil, flora and fauna;
- Does not cause noise and smell pollution;
- Does not have an adverse effect on the territory of the country as a whole and especially on protected areas and cultural heritage (Article 5 of the Code).
Considering the fact that the contaminated water and waste that are dumped by the plants into Rioni and Kaparchina end up in the Black Sea, not only these rivers but also the sea coast and the ecosystem of Kolkheti protected areas are being put in danger.
In addition, the Code contains a principle whereby the producer or owner of the waste is obliged to cover the waste management costs (Article 5 of the Code).
The Waste Management Code prohibits enterprises from polluting the environment with municipal and animal waste and envisages fines for this in the amount ranging from GEL 100 to GEL 1,000.
The operation of fish and sea product processing plants is also regulated by the Administrative Offences Code. For example, fines in the amount ranging from GEL 200 to GEL 800 are envisaged for the violation of water protection regulations (polluting water with various types of waste).
In addition to the Waste Management Code and Administrative Offences Code requirements, fish and sea product processing plants are obliged to adhere to the regulations stipulated by the Georgian Government's 2014 Decree No 17 On Establishing Technical Procedures for the Protection of Environment. Such plants must also meet the requirements of the laws On Environment, On Protection of Atmospheric Air, On Water and of the Waste Management Code.
There are four fish and sea product processing enterprises operating in Poti: Iceberg 2, LLC, MBM, LLC, Sea Products, LLC and GeoFish Company, LLC.
At the same time, all four companies have fishing licences with expiry dates extended until September 2026 by the Georgian Government's Decree dated 22 April 2016.
It is noteworthy that Irakli Khakhubia, the Georgian Dream member of Parliament of Georgia elected from the single-seat district of Poti, owns 25 percent of shares of Iceberg 2, LLC. Also, this company owns 60 percent of shares of GeoFish Company, LLC. The director of both enterprises is Irakli Vekua who is also the manager of Irakli Khakhubia's 25 percent of shares of Iceberg 2, LLC.
Transparency International Georgia representatives paid a visit to the companies and found out the following:
- According to Iceberg 2, LLC representatives, the plant is equipped with proper filters and facilities which minimize the emission of harmful and foul-smelling substances;
- According to MBM, LLC representatives, the plant does face this problem as a result of processing of a particularly large volumes of anchovies in 2017, which prevented the cleaning facilities from working at full capacity. MBM representatives said that the company is planning to upgrade its filters and relevant facilities in 2018 and thus fully resolve the problem of emitting the fish odour into the atmosphere;
- Sea Products, LLC Director Davit Kvantaliani said that filters and cleaning facilities were installed at the plant three years ago and, correspondingly, Sea Products, LLC is neither spreading the fish odour nor polluting the environment;
- The GeoFish Company, LLC representatives said that the installation of filters and cleaning facilities has begun and the problem of foul smell and emission of harmful substances will be resolved fully by the time the next fish processing season arrives.
Irregularities discovered in enterprises
According to the information received from the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture, the Environment Protection Oversight Department identified 27 violations of the law in all four enterprises (15 in Iceberg 2, five in Sea Products, 4 in MBM and 3 in GeoFish Company) in 2017.
The following kinds of violations were discovered at the enterprises:
- Pollution of environment with animal (anchovies) waste;
- Pollution of sea with water containing fish blood and residual fat;
Pollution of river (through a canal) with waste products from fish processing.
The fines imposed on the enterprises range from GEL 100 to GEL 1,000. Fines of this size cannot play a preventive role in ensuring environmental protection and ecological safety.
Political donations made by company owners
Irakli Khakhubia donated GEL 10,000 and Irakli Vekua – GEL 1,100 to the United National Movement in 2012.
Political donations were made by the owners of other fish processing companies, too:
- Davit Tsitsilashvili, who owns 100 percent of shares of Sea Products, LLC, donated GEL 60,000 to the Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia party in 2016;
- Kakhaber Lataria, who owns 25 percent of shares of Iceberg 2, LLC, donated GEL 20,000 in August 2012 and GEL 40,000 in September of the same year to the United National Movement; in 2016, he donated GEL 60,000 to the Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia party;
- Tengiz Sarishvili, who also owns 25 percent of shares of Iceberg 2, LLC, donated GEL 20,000 in August 2012 and GEL 40,000 in September of the same year to the United National Movement, and GEL 60,000 to the Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia party in 2016.
Transparency International Georgia recommends:
- The Environment Protection Oversight Department of the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture needs to conduct a detailed inspection of all four plants and determine what concrete measures need to be implemented in order to prevent environmental pollution as well as to minimize the emission of foul odour.