Tbilisi City Hall to Revive Public Parks

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze has announced a new plan for the city’s parks. In a statement, Kaladze said that two parks will be completely renovated by the end of this year – Tsurtsumia St. in the Avlabari neighborhood, and Vaso Godziashvili Park AKA ‘Red Park’ in Saburtalo. “For Tsurtumia Park, which was run down and old, infrastructure works are about to begin,” said Kaladze, “We are starting the rehabilitation of the Godziashvili Park, and it will be completed by the end of the year. Tbilisi citizens will be able to visit and enjoy the renewed form of this park this year.”

By the end of 2019, City Hall plans to renovate 12 big parks in Tbilisi, including its most well-known public green space – Vake Park. The renovations will include benches, lighting, footpaths, and different attractions for children. In Vake Park, there will be a special dog area for pets and their owners. There are also discussions to build a small amusement park in Vake Park, as there was during Soviet times.

Deputy Mayor Maya Bitadze has already been given the official order to prepare the plans for the rehabilitation and renovation project, expected by the end of 2018. The renovation project will be finished by the end of 2019, according to Kaladze’s plan. “We should do everything to reestablish a park culture and to give people comfort in entering a nice park,” said Kaladze, “This is the demand of society. Current infrastructure needs renovation and where we don’t have anything, we should create it.”

City Hall also promises to build two new parks – in the Dighomi area, a park called ‘Dighmis Chalebi’ and a park called ‘Temkis Khevi’ in the Temka area. There are also plans to build a third new park in Gldani’s VI microdistrict which will be more than three hectares in size.

Currently, many of the city’s public parks are barely useable due to crumbling and unsafe infrastructure, lack of grass or trees, and poor or no lighting at night. Over the past seven years, Tbilisi City Hall has renovated many smaller parks, including adding outdoor exercise equipment painted in the bright blue of the ruling Georgian Dream party.

According to research done by FactCheck.ge in 2016, Tbilisi has a long way to go to catch up to European cities in terms of green space per capita. In Tbilisi, there is no more than five-six square meters per person of green space, while the World Health Organization recommends at least nine square meters per person. According to a document from the Research Department of the Parliament of Georgia, the average green space per capita is 35.5 square meters in the larger cities of the Council of Europe’s 31 member countries. The report lists Vienna as the greenest city per capita, with each Viennese resident having access to a luxurious 120 square meters of green per person. Soviet standards listed a minimum of 15 square meters per capita for cities of 500,000 – although that goal was never achieved.

There have been several public protests this year against the destruction of some of Tbilisi’s green areas, notably the SOS Hippodrome movement, which rallied against the construction of a new highway overpass near the Hippodrome in the Saburtalo neighborhood. Earlier this month, Prathap Nair published an article on the CityLab website detailing the rise of environmental activism in Tbilisi, citing the 2016 International Energy Agency report on air pollution (based on data from 2012) as a wakeup call for many Georgians, as the country was ranked as having the highest mortality rate in the world due to air pollution, with close to 300 deaths per 100,000 people.

In January, a law on vehicle inspections, including emissions standards, went into effect for large engine and passenger vehicles. The law will be implemented for all vehicles beginning January 2019. Last month, a nationwide ban on smoking indoors in public places was enacted in a further attempt to clear the air.

By Samantha Guthrie

14 June 2018 20:44