09TBILISI17, GEORGIA’S ENVIRONMENT MINISTER PLANS REFORMS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI17 2009-01-06 13:46 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO0492
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #0017/01 0061346
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 061346Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0658
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000017 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL SENV SCUL BEXP AID GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA'S ENVIRONMENT MINISTER PLANS REFORMS 
 
TBILISI 00000017  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1. (SBU)  Begin summary.  During a December 23 meeting with 
the Ambassador, new Minister of Environmental Protection and 
Natural Resources, Giorgi Khachidze, was upbeat and energized 
about his plans for reforms, including the finalization of a 
strategic environmental plan for the country.  He described 
his plans for forestry reform, stressed the need to elevate 
the issue of environmental protection in Georgia, illustrated 
some ideas for increasing cooperation with the United States, 
especially in the protected areas program, and discussed 
nonproliferation issues (septel).  Many of the reforms he 
discussed, especially in terms of strategic planning and 
forestry reform, are in line with recommendations by the 
United States and other donors for holistic management 
interventions that conserve watersheds while allowing for 
sstainable exploitation.  However, in terms of solid waste 
disposal in Georgia, which is not in accordance with 
international standards and has led to unsanitary landfills 
and toxic plumes of smoke, the Minister was not yet able to 
provide any plan of action. End summary. 
 
2. (SBU)  Khachidze began the meeting by acknowledging the 
importance of Georgia's relationship with the United States, 
especially for his ministry.  He recalled seeing the 
Ambassador last September when the Minister served as 
Governor of Samtskhe-Javakheti region, and viewing with the 
Ambassador the fire damage caused by Russian troops during 
the August war in Borjomi National Park.  He discussed the 
positive changes he foresees for the ministry, and said that 
they are currently finalizing a concrete high-level strategic 
planning document.  Khachidze stressed the importance of 
having everyone deal with the Ministry as an institution and 
not simply the personality of each, successive Minister. 
 
Forestry Reform 
 
3. (SBU)  Khachidze highlighted the issue of forestry reform 
as one of his priorities for 2009.  He said that he would 
like the state to be the administrator of the forests.  While 
not implying that interested investors will be turned down 
and saying that a long-term licensing office will exist, he 
stated emphatically that the state is the best forestry 
manager.  The Ambassador applauded this decision, as the U.S. 
and other stakeholders had objected to a 2007 effort to 
privatize Georgia's natural resources, including forests, in 
the absence of an official natural resources strategy. 
Khachidze also pointed out that while they were already 
working with the Germans in the area of forestry, he was very 
interested in renewing contacts with the State of Georgia 
Forestry Commission, and asked the Ambassador for help making 
this connection. 
 
Environmental Protection 
 
4. (SBU) Khachidze stressed the importance of environmental 
issues in assistance projects.  He specifically noted concern 
regarding a Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) road 
construction project that required logging an area near a 
nature preserve.  The Ambassador assured the Minister that 
all U.S. assistance projects are held to strict environmental 
standards and vetting accordingly.  (Note: The project 
mentioned by Khachidze passed an environmental review by both 
the Government of Georgia and MCC.  The MCC's review was 
based on international best practices, and required the 
contractor to mitigate any environmental impact caused by 
construction.  While the MCC continues to monitor the 
construction, this conflict is mainly internal, as Millennium 
Challenge Georgia and its board, chaired by the Prime 
QChallenge Georgia and its board, chaired by the Prime 
Minister, is the administrator and final approver of the 
contract. End note.)  Khachidze said that he hoped for more 
environmental projects with USAID in the future.  The 
Minister lamented that the concept of environmental 
protection still does not exist in the minds of Georgians, 
and he hopes to change this by introducing campaigns that 
directly impact everyday citizens.  For example, he would 
attempt to decrease plastic bag usage and the scandalous 
littering of the environment with these bags.  He stated that 
while all other ministries protect the people, his ministry 
"protects from the people." 
 
Protected Areas 
 
5. (SBU) Khachidze suggested further engaging the Embassy in 
the protected areas program by having the Tbilisi National 
Park fall under the patronage of the Embassy.  He stated that 
American visitors would be proud of such efforts, and implied 
that it would serve as an inspiration for Georgians as well. 
The Ambassador said that the United States is prepared to 
continue support for the national parks and said that he 
found the Minister's idea for the Tbilisi park interesting. 
(Note: USAID has been supporting Georgia's na
tural resource 
conservation through an interagency agreement with the U.S. 
 
TBILISI 00000017  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
Department of Interior since 1999.  As of 2005, the USG has 
provided direct technical assistance to the Ministry's 
Department of Protected Areas.  Through 2009, the USG will 
help the Ministry implement the Tbilisi National Park by 
providing planning support, developing commercialization 
strategies and facilitating infrastructure improvements.  End 
note.)  The Minister said the potential for a new National 
Park in the Svaneti/Racha area depended directly on donor 
assistance, as the Ministry does not have funds for the 
expansion. 
 
Solid Waste 
 
6. (SBU) The Ambassador asked the Minister if he had a 
strategy for solid waste disposal, noting that the UN/World 
Bank Joint Needs Assessment highlighted it as a critical need 
that Georgia must address to protect human health and the 
environment, and to demonstrate its willingness to adhere to 
international practices towards EU accession.  The Minister 
responded that he plans to request donor assistance in this 
area as well, however, he did not discuss any plans for 
action or reform. 
 
TEFFT

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