Среда, 30 Октябрь 2019 13:26

Cooperation within the Caucasus region is important, Levan Davitashvili

Caspian Energy (CE): Implementation of the national waste management strategy of Georgia 2030 is ongoing. According to new regulations, plastic bags should be replaced by biodegradable bags. Use of plastic bags in Europe was restricted years ago. What are the goals and plans you have for the nearest future?
Levan Davitashvili, Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia: On September 14, 2018, the Government of Georgia adopted the Decree # 472 on “Technical Regulations and Rules of Application on Plastic and Biodegradable bags”. According to this decree, import, manufacturing and sale of plastic bags of less than 15 microns, and manufacturing, import and selling of any “Oxo degradable bags” was prohibited since October 1, 2018.
The ban was imposed on import, manufacturing and sale of any plastic bag from April 1, 2019. Accordingly, from this stage it is only accepted to import, produce and sell biodegradable and compost (according to standard EN 13432: 2000) plastic bags.

CE: In order to deepen partnership between Georgia and Azerbaijan, the Presidents of both countries have focused on the implementation of joint projects on regional and international level. What kinds of projects have been implemented so far? Are there any new initiatives offered by Georgia?
Levan Davitashvili: Transboundary projects in Georgia are carried out in different directions. Today most of them are being implemented in the field of water resources protection, biodiversity conservation, environmental management and sustainable management of forest resources.
One of such projects is the EU Water Initiative for the Eastern Partnership countries (EUWI +) [2016-2020]. The aim of the project is to support promotion of water resources management in the Eastern Partnership countries, especially on trans-boundary rivers.
The specific goal of the project is to ensure the convergence of national policies and strategies of the policy on water resources with the EU Framework Directive, Integrated Water Management and relevant multilateral environmental treaties.
The “Integrated Biodiversity Management in the South Caucasus (IBiS)” [2015-2019] project is also of great importance and aims to create better coordination between different sectors, based on reliable data on biodiversity and ecosystem services management.
Another project is the management of natural resources and ecosystem services in rural areas for sustainable development in South Caucasus (Eco serve) [2018-2021]. The objective of the project is to improve the conditions for use of natural resources in terms of sustainable development as well as efficient use of resources to achieve biodiversity goals in South Caucasus. Special attention is paid to energy security for rural population.
The Transboundary Joint Secretariat in the South Caucasus (TJS) (Phase III) (2015-2012) is the Eco-Regional Program for the Protection of the South Caucasus, funded by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), with help from German and Development Bank (KfW).TJS provides assistance to the Ministries of Caucasus Region in the development of regional cooperation and development and harmonization of the nature conservation sector.
Since 2013, the project of Restoration of Gazelle has been implemented in Vashlovani National Park. 75 Gazelles were brought from Azerbaijan (Shirvani National Park) within the scope of this project. Cooperation in this field is particularly remarkable.
Eco-Corridors Fund for the Caucasus (ECF) is a long-term financial instrument that ensures biodiversity conservation through long-term conservation agreements on landscapes in the South Caucasus. The program aims to integrate environmental measures at landscape level and create eco-corridors connecting different Protected Areas of the Caucasus, in parallel with sustainable economic and social development.
The main goal of the program is to conserve biodiversity, as well as protection of important species and their habitats. The program envisages the maintenance and development of live landscapes, by active involvement of local population, as well as conservation of sustainable populations and the habitats.

CE: Environmental protection is one of the most important aspects for many countries around the world, which means regional cooperation and collective efforts are needed to achieve environmental goals. What kinds of joint projects can be implemented in our region and are there any international organizations committed to implement these projects?
Levan Davitashvili: Taking into consideration the global threat of climate change, cooperation within the Caucasus region is important for minimizing damages caused by climate change disasters. This task can be achieved more efficiently through joint efforts, as we are facing similar challenges.
We are actively cooperating with Azerbaijan in the framework of the UN Climate Change Framework Convention, for example, at the meetings of the Eastern European and Asian Regional Group we discuss the challenges in our countries that emerge during the implementation of Climate Change Policy. In 2018, Georgia hosted a Regional Dialogue on issues related to the preparation of the contribution on national level.
We had several Green Climate Fund training Courses (this year also) for the Caucasus and Central Asian countries. Within the Caucasus region, we have a cooperation platform where we implemented the “Climate Change Impact on Agrobiodiversity in the Caucasus” project, (EU fund, budget of 1.5 million Euros).  The vulnerability assessment, as well as harmonization of the existing methodologies in our country and analyzes of the legislative base was conducted within the framework of the project.
Additionally, it is worth mentioning, the possibility of cooperation with innovative (climate efficient) technologies and green economy, which will enable us to fulfill the obligations under the Paris agreement.
As for the protection of atmospheric air, Georgia and Azerbaijan are member states of the Convention of Long Range Transboundary Pollution (CLRTAP) and are participating in virtually all the events held by the Secretariat of the Convention on Eastern Europe. Trainings, legislation reviews, preparation of action plans and road maps are being conducted to strengthen the capacities of the Caucasus and Central Asian Region countries. Because atmospheric air pollution is without boundaries, it can be said that this is not only regional but also a global problem. Of course, there is a huge potential to implement joint projects in this direction, but at this stage, no specific project is planned.

CE: Time to time, rational use of water resources is a topic of discussion for Georgia and South Caucasus. In general, what types of measures are being implemented in this direction?
Levan Davitashvili: Currently, as various economic sectors are developing rapidly in Georgia as well as in neighbor countries, the demand for water increases. It is very important to establish effective system for water resources management that will contribute to the rational usage and protection of water by various sectors (industry, energy, agriculture).
This is one of the top priority issues for the country. Based on the significance of the issue, the Ministry has developed a bill on “Water Resources Management” which aims to establish sustainable water resources management system and reflects European principles and internationally recognized requirements for river basins management.  The bill will be presented to the Parliament of Georgia for the final approval during this year.
It is obvious that we should not discuss the topic of water resources usage only on the national level; therefore, the cooperation with neighboring countries holds big importance. Thus, the Ministry encourages the implementation of international projects in the field of transboundary water resources usage and protection. With support of the European Union and other international organizations, many projects have been implemented in South Caucasus recently. I would like to highlight the Georgia-Azerbaijan successful cooperation in the field of water resources management. For instance, with support of the UN European Commission and along with Azerbaijan, the study / assessment of water-food-energy-ecosystem in riv. Alazani basin was conducted in 2013-2014.
“Integrated Water Resources Management Strategy Action Programme (Azerbaijan-Georgia)” has been developed with support of GEF-UNDP project “Transboundary Degradation Reduction in Kura-Arax basin”. In 2014, the document was approved by the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia and the Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan as a roadmap for the establishment of integrated water management system in riv. Kura.
In order to facilitate the implementation of the above mentioned program, GEF-UNDP project “Kura II” was launched in 2016.
We believe that such cooperation is the cornerstone of the sustainable development of our countries.

CE: Experts argue that if Georgia does not respond appropriately to overcome the challenges related to climate change, losses will reach $ 12 billion over the next ten years. What measures is Georgia undertaking?
Levan Davitashvili: In accordance with the document on “Georgia’s National Designated Contributions”, it is assessed that the disaster caused by climate change in the next decade could cost 10-12 billion dollars to the country. Among the natural disasters, the unequal distribution of precipitation and the intensified melting of glaciers are particularly noticeable.
As a result, the number of cases of flooding and mudflows in Georgia has increased significantly over the last few years. On June 13, 2015 flooding in the Vere Valley resulted in landslide processes and overflooded the significant part of the city. In addition, the flood of Glacier Lake, which was caused by the glacier meltdown, has become the reason for flooding, invoked serious damage to the population of Svaneti.
In order to avoid such cataclysms and to minimize damages, last year Georgia received funding from Green Climate Fund and Swiss Government to implement a relevant adaptation project.
Within the framework of the project, adaptation infrastructure will be constructed in 11 river basins, early warning systems will be introduced, modern meteorological and hydrological stations will be installed and high accuracy forecasting capabilities will be provided.
In addition to this, the Government of Georgia is in process to elaborate the state adaptation strategy, which will be launched with support of Green Climate Fund this year. It is really important for us to make the rational evaluation to the expected impact of climate change on our natural resources and based on this determine the climate resistant and sustainable development of the economic sectors.

Thank you for the interview

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