One Week Countdown: Panorama Protesters Demand to Meet the PM

Representatives of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and civil society activists again protested against the multifunctional complex Panorama Tbilisi construction. This time, they asked to meet with the Head of State and representatives of the Opposition. The government seems unlikely to change its mind regarding the on-going construction work.

The Panorama Tbilisi project consists of four major complexes with tourist and business centers, high-rise buildings and hotels. According to the plan, the complexes are to be located in Sololaki Hills, Sololaki Gardens, Liberty Square and Erekle II Square; and will be connected to each other by cable car. The project will cost USD 500 million and was created on the initiative of former Prime Minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili. From the first day of its presentation controversy raged, but, two years later, the authorities remain fixed and the construction work has already begun.

Civil society activists and NGOs occupied the streets of Tbilisi to protest the large-scale constructions, arguing that Panorama Tbilisi will spoil the unique face of the city and worsen the ecological condition, highlighting expert opinions to support their position.

“Informed people, like archaeologists and experts in this field, always join our protests,” said Nata Peradze, representative of the ‘Together’ movement. “We have expert assessments from both local and foreign organizations which confirm the enormous environmental damage which the construction can cause the city.

In addition, the activists have expressed doubts regarding the closed process of the project, suspecting that Panorama Tbilisi was given a 5th class construction mark (of strategic importance) to make its consideration only possible at State level, and so less transparent.

Besides increasing the transparency of the project, protesters, as before, have asked for all construction works to cease- all of which are located near the historic district of Sololaki and in the centrally located Pushkin Square.

At a protest march on February 27, citizens gave the government one week to arrange a meeting with Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. In addition, they want to meet with all the politicians who will take part in the parliamentary elections in October 2016.

“We have elections this year, that is why it is so important to know the point of view of each candidate,” said Tsira Elisashvili, representative of the ‘Together’ movement. “We are going to visit each politician who plans to participate in the election and ask them to sign our memorandum, which has a simple aim – to stop the Panorama Tbilisi project. In this case, we will have a guarantee that if they come to power, the construction of the complex will cease.”

As yet, the ruling power seems to have no plans to stop the on-going works and has offered counter-arguments. “Many ecological and economic studies were carried out regarding the Panorama Tbilisi project which made no mention of the risks [protesters complain about],” said Mayor of Tbilisi, Davit Narmania. “Nor is it going to bring negative social impact or damage cultural heritage. The Panorama Tbilisi project will go ahead.”

The Mayor highlighted the positive economic benefits of the project, noting that around 2,000 to 4,000 people would be employed during the construction and, following the opening of the Panorama complexes, the city as a whole will become more attractive to the business sector and tourists.

However, civil society activists insist on their demands and claim that if they will not be satisfied, the protests will become a permanent fixture.

Eka Karsaulidze

29 February 2016 18:41