Ex-Mayor Zurab Chiaberashvili: New Road Not Responsible for Tragedy

The Tbilisi flooding which began on June 13 killed at least 18 citizens, left many homeless and left deadly animals stranded on Tbilisi’s streets.

Speculation has since arisen as to potential culpability of the new road in the Vere Gorge in Tbilisi built during the United National Movement’s in the middle of the last decade. Zurab Chiaberashvili, former Tbilisi Mayor, talked with Georgia Today about some facets of the natural catastrophe and possible solutions of the complicated situation.

Q: The new road in the Vere Gorge was built during the UNM’s time. Could you tell us why such a project was initiated and what the major cause of the flooding was?

A: The basis of the flooding was of course not Vere but the massive landslide several kilometers away that drove the flooding. Looking at the city’s history, almost the same tragedy happened back in the 1960s. A couple of years ago we initiated the building of the new road which would importantly ease transport movement in a city suffering from permanent traffic jams.

Q: There were allegations that geological factors had been ignored due to political pressure to build the road. Do you think there are enough grounds for the Prosecutor’s Office to pursue this claim?

A: First, as I said before, Vere Gorge has nothing to do with the source of the flooding, as it started before and the Vere region was unable to deter the immense amount of water. Moreover, when the reconstruction of the area started after the Rose Revolution, over 73 families were compensated and displaced from the vicinity in terms of security. If these measures had not been taken, I cannot imagine what the situation would be now. In addition, prior to the building of the road, all necessary geological studies were conducted; if the government is keen to involve some international experts in the process, I would welcome that.

Q: What measures does the local government need to take to solve the problem and what other relevant projects need to be implemented to improve the city’s infrastructure?

A: I agree with the experts saying that a protective dam needs to be built quickly to control the masses of water in the future. This project appears to be costly, though. It will enable us to preempt such tragedies or minimize the natural risks in the future. Apart from this, Tbilisi City Hall definitely needs to continue building an alternative transport networks in Tbilisi to avoid massive amounts of traffic in the evening and encourage other important projects at the same time. In addition, there is a need to build several bridges and tunnels, which I believe would highly contribute to improving the city’s infrastructure.

Q: Yesterday another tragedy happened as a tiger attacked and killed a citizen near the zoo. Who should be responsible for this?

A: When such a tragedy happens and there are some extraordinary situations, a team is usually created to coordinate all of the processes and to monitor every aspect around a catastrophe. As we see, formally, such a team did exist or could not function efficiently in time. I think the Crisis Management Council (CMC) was responsible for all aspects, including the number of animals residing in the Zoo after the flooding. As for the Zoo administration, their responsibility was to inform the crisis management team about the number of the animals alive, and those killed by the special forces on the ground were to be taken under control by the CMC. This reveals incompetence and lack of professionalism in the CMC.

Katie Ruth Davies

18 June 2015 22:56