Kvesheti-Kobi Road to Create New Opportunities for Locals of Khada Gorge

The importance of building new roads for the development of infrastructure, tourism and the economy in general is a well-known fact. The above becomes even more important when we are talking about mountainous regions which are usually difficult to access, especially in winter when such areas are cut off from the outside world due to lack of suitable roads.

One of the examples of amazingly beautiful and attractive places with less developed infrastructure in Georgia is Khada Gorge, a tiny and hidden gorge below the mountains of Gudauri at the edge of the Caucasus Mountains.

However, despite its breathtaking nature and centuries-old historic towers, the area is less touristic and almost completely emptied of locals as it is difficult to access and is characterized by harsh climatic conditions.

Khada Gorge 

The new Kvesheti-Kobi Road Project is expected to address the challenges the local population is facing, improve the general economic situation in the region and enable continuous and safe transport movement there.

A new innovative project, which envisages the construction of a highway in the Kvesheti-Kobi area, will start in December this year.

Levan Kupatashvili, Deputy Chairman of the Roads Department, notes that the main goal of the project is to improve the situation in the region.

The new road will reduce travel time and costs, improve traffic safety, increase Georgia's transit potential and develop tourism in various directions.

Construction of a two-lane 22.7 km long asphalt-concrete road, 6 bridges and 5 tunnels is planned on Kvesheti-Kobi road, including the construction of one 9km tunnel. The tunnel starts at the beautiful Tskere village and ends at Kobi village. The mentioned tunnel will pass under the Jvari Pass. Construction of Kvesheti-Kobi road is divided into two lots. 

The Kvesheti-Kobi section is a part of the North-South Road Corridor. The road passes through difficult geographical routes characterized by heavy snowfall in the winter period. Due to avalanche hazards and adverse weather, traffic is often stopped in winter and transit traffic is interrupted. Construction of a new road and 9-km tunnel will address these issues. Unhindered transit traffic will be possible at any time of the year.

The width of the 9 km Kvesheti-Kobi tunnel will be 15 m, which is rather rare not only in Transcaucasia but throughout the world.

A 500m arch bridge will be constructed on the Kvesheti-Kobi road, whose arch will be unprecedented at 300 m in length. Designers note that it will be among the 10 best and tallest bridges in Europe.

After the project realization, the distance between Kvesheti and Kobi will be reduced by 12 km instead of the existing 35 km road, and the travel time will be reduced to 20 minutes instead of 1 hour.

The Kvesheti-Kobi road runs along the riverbed of Tetri Aragvi along the 7-km section, passes through Arakveti village, then a serpentine starts from Kvemo Mleta. The road passes through Gudauri, crosses the Jvari Pass and ends at Kobi village; in total, nine villages are affected by the project. It is also noteworthy that the road will have a minimum impact on these villages, so that the unique nature and cultural heritage of Khada Gorge won’t be affected.  

The tunnel provides more secure and reliable conditions for passengers on the road in winter. The road will also improve the livelihood conditions of inhabitants living in the gorge. They are isolated from the outside world in winter and the villages of Khada are almost empty. There are no grocery stores or pharmacies, and medical assistance is not available. Because of the nonexistence of the road and severe weather conditions, local people have to go to Kvesheti on foot, which is related to a lot of difficulties and risks. It is worth mentioning that there are mostly middle-aged and elderly people living in the upper villages of the gorge. It’s especially hard for them to travel this road in winter.

“I live in fear that if I get sick, no one will come here to save me, even if they wanted to,” says one of the inhabitants of the mountainous village of Tskere, Makvala Tsiklauri, who stays there even during the harshest winter.

She considers the lack of road to be the main reason for the emptying of the villages in the Khada Gorge.

For this woman, just like for all of us, it is important to get medical care, but there is no such opportunity in the gorge. Makvala Tsiklauri recalls stories when locals became ill and could not visit a doctor due to the lack of road.

The existence of the road should promote inhabitants to return back to their homes, to develop small businesses and bring the gorge back to life.

When asked about her opinion regarding the construction of the new Kvesheti-Kobi road, she noted that she supports it and is looking forward to the completion of construction.

“Some people oppose it, however, I personally like the idea and support it. Once I was asked if I prefer the noise of trucks or the beauty of this nature. Life is more important for me than this nature and beauty and I prefer the sound of trucks over the howl of wolves.

“People always have different opinions, but from all the cold, fear and hardship I’ve experienced here in winter, I know that new road is really better than all this, and I look forward to completing the construction,” the local resident pointed out.

The construction works of the Kvesheti-Kobi section is financed by the Asian Development Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The construction works will be completed in 2023.

By Ana Dumbadze 

06 October 2020 12:15