Dismantled Ministry of Environment
13 December 2017
We want to respond to the recent developments and planned amendments announced by the Prime Minister of Georgia on 13th of November 2017, which considered that the Ministry of Energy and the natural resources management component of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection will be incorporated into the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development. While the environment component of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection will be merged with the Ministry of Agriculture.
The steps taken towards the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia, which are explained on behalf of the government as bureaucracy reduction and improvement of the management, is impossible to be understood positively. First of all, the announced changes are vague, not based on research and lacking assessment of what kind of positive or negative impacts this type of reorganization can have. Accordingly, we, Georgian Young Greens are concerned that the decision of the government will only cause weakening of the Ministry, which will further erode the ecological situation in Georgia.
Worth noting a few facts, which call into question the validity of the decision:
- Even though Georgia is part of the Aarhus Convention, which obliges every country to ensure public involvement and participation in legislative and decision-making processes (moreover, it is a fact that representative of Georgia is the chairman of the Aarhus Convention Bureau), the above mentioned changes have not been known and open for public discussion in advance, and the decision was made in a narrow circle.
- From January 1, 2018, the Environmental Assessment Code will be enacted. Under the code the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection has taken a number of responsibilities - among which it was entrusted to regulate activities of legal entities which are affecting environment, and consequently, reduce the negative impact on the environment. For execution of these responsibilities increase of the budget would be necessary, however, the current changes puts under question not only the budget increase and enforcement of acts of the law, but also implementation of the terms already established by the existing normative acts. Moreover, the Association Agreement with the EU obliges Georgia to introduce and enforce a series of new regulations. But it is hard to imagine how this is going to happen after dissolution of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection.
- Connecting management of natural resources to the Ministry of Economy will inevitably result a conflict of interests, since while managing natural resources the advantage will be given to the benefit of economic gain and environmental protection will move to second priority. In a country where environmental protection is perceived as a hindrance to the economy, it is a challenge which is always faced. If we look at the past experiences, where the rights and responsibilities of Ministry of Environment were limited and the Ministry of Economy was the main decision-maker, we remember the negative consequences that were caused by various implemented projects. One of the clearest examples of this is Tbilisi Flood of 2015 which resulted in dozens of human casualties, animal deaths and economic losses. The reason was, of course, the wrong decisions on the planning and implementation of the project.
We believe that the Prime Minister should review the decision and preserve the existing status, rights and responsibilities of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection. Moreover, we should take into consideration the existing priorities and agenda of sustainable development in the world, which was posed by the challenges caused by anthropogenic influence on the environment. Furthermore, we call various parties including society, activists and non-governmental organizations to actively engage in this process in order to address this serious problem.