New Resort in Adjara vs Unprotected Property Rights of Local Inhabitants
Construction of the new ski resort in mountainous Adjara affects properties of several local inhabitants. On 21 October 2011, by Decree of the Georgian Government, the territory of the Goderdzi Pass was registered into state property and later was transferred to the Government of Adjara. State registration covered the property of tens of local residents. Despite this fact, the construction of a new ski resort was planned and started on this territory without giving the inhabitants prior notification.
According to the Georgian Government’s new initiative (see August 2011 reportage on Public Broadcaster) in the mountainous region of Adjara near the Goderdzi Pass, namely in the Zankebi settlement, construction of a new ski resort has started. At this stage, construction work is carried out by the Georgian company LTD Goderdzi Resorts, which is 100% owned by the Government of Adjara Autonomous Republic. The director of this company is Mr. Vazha Diasamidze, former head of the Adjarian Tourism Department. At this time, without any prior consent of the landowners, a new road is being built on the territory of the Zankebi settlement, which goes through some of the locals’ homesteads.
After meeting with locals the Advocacy and Legal Aid Centre of Transparency International Georgia found out that up to 70 families in the Zankebi settlement own land plots, of which 11 also have houses on them. These families have cultivated these arable plots for years. In 1998 these lands were transferred to the locals. However the majority of them could not register these plots at the Public Registry at the time. Despite the fact that most of the lands are not registered at the Public Registry, locals continue to use them without any interruption, moreover they are still paying land taxes.
Since the initiative on constructing a new ski resort was announced, locals have been unable to register their houses and land (including homesteads) as private property. Several land owners applied to the Public Registry’s local office, but were refused to register their land plots. The reason for refusal was the fact that these land plots had already been registered as State property.
According to locals, these lands are their only source of income and many make their living solely off of them. In addition to the inability to register these lands, locals have not been given precise information on any future plans of the Government. In particular, they do not know exactly what kind of work is going to be performed on their land, who is going to be affected by this work, and whether they will be given any compensation.
Despite the lack of information, locals have repeatedly announced that they agree with the construction of the resort and are willing to contribute to the development of the Goderdzi Pass territory. “Nothing has been made on the Goderdzi Pass before. Nobody remembered us for years. Shall something be made and built here and, if it is necessary and there is no other way, let it be at the expense of our lands. We will only support and help building this resort,” says one of the locals.
Government of Adjara and investor share the concerns of locals and expressed readiness to fully consider there interests. According to Deputy Head of the Khulo Municipality, Mr. Givi Kedelidze at this moment only preliminary works are being performed and local authorities, with the help of the Adjarian Government and the construction company, will compensate any inflicted damages to the inhabitants of the Goderdzi Pass.
According to Mr. Diasamidze, Director of Ltd Goderdzi Resorts, low awareness among the locals was caused by the fact that the decision to implement the project was taken in a rush, earlier than it had initially been planned. Therefore, they could not manage to notify locals in advance, at least to prevent them from sowing their arable plots which might sustain damages from the construction. According to Vazha Diasamidze’s statement, all local inhabitants will be provided with alternative land plots and respective compensation to cover inflicted damages.
The resort construction project has been drafted and will be implemented step by step from 2012 to 2015. In 2012, according to the project, 18 local inhabitants are to be resettled. Each of them in return will receive another land plot nearby according to their choice and be reimbursed for expenses. The company will also try to give locals enough time to harvest their crops.
It should be mentioned that the company’s ability to fulfill its obligations to the locals depends on the Adjarian Government. In particular, it should be determined in what way the new land plots are to be transferred to them in order to not hamper the registration process and to ensure that locals’ rights and interests will be protected in the future.
TI Georgia has actively engaged in the Goderdzi Pass affair. Our goal is to ensure that the locals and stakeholders will be provided with complete information. We will try to involve representatives of the Adjarian Government in the process and organize a meeting with the Goderdzi Pass inhabitants, which would enable them to receive first hand information from the government.
TI Georgia hopes that the successful realization of the Goderdzi Pass resort project will not be achieved at the expense of the local population’s property rights. We believe that communication with the local community and proper information on the subject of property related to their ownership/usage should be conducted at an early stage; not only before the start of the work, but also prior to the drafting of the project. It is vital that the process of compensation to the community members be carried out transparently. We appreciate the readiness of LTD Goderdzi Resorts to protect the interest of the locals, however, the role of governmental bodies in this process is of utmost importance to ensure that any compensation is real and guaranteed for everyone.