Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Caucasus: Oct ‘08

IWPR radio show helps ensure warmer winter for many Imereti residents.
A report on the IWPR radio programme Accent highlighting problems with a Georgian government project to provide firewood for people in the province of Imereti has prompted officials into action.

Under the scheme, the Georgian environment protection agency handed out firewood vouchers in areas where there are no gas pipelines and people have to burn logs to heat their homes in winter.

Each of the beneficiaries, who were mainly from low-income families, was entitled to ten cubic metres of firewood which they had to cut themselves in certain forests chosen by the ministry.

“One cubic metre of firewood costs 100 laris (70 US dollars) at the market, and a family needs an average of eight to ten cubic metres to stay warm throughout the winter,” said Accent reporter Ketevan Berdzenishvili.

“The environment ministry provided those with vouchers with a free supply of wood sufficient to last them till the end of winter.”

However, Accent reported that many people living in Imereti’s mountainous villages failed to take advantage of the scheme because the forests where they were then supposed to cut the firewood were too far from their villages.

Lia Kharabadze, of Kumura village in Imereti’s Vani District, said that she and her fellow villagers had little option but to sell their vouchers for 25 laris each.

“We couldn’t use our vouchers because truck drivers charged us 500 laris for carrying the cut trees from there, which is an exorbitant sum for us,” said Lia.

The vice-governor of Imereti, Lasha Kiladze, said that the Accent broadcast prompted him to act.

“The report we listened to…shook us up, and in good time too,” he said.

“We carried out an investigation and found out that villagers of the Vani District were not the only people affected by the problem.

“Residents of other Georgian mountainous areas, too, failed to collect the firewood they were entitled to under the…project.

“We contacted the environment ministry and asked them to review the project to enable all beneficiaries, especially the most needy, to make use of the vouchers.”

Keti Dalakishvili, of the Imereti branch of the environment protection agency, said, “After brief talks with the region’s leaders, the environment ministry allowed voucher holders from mountainous villages to cut firewood in forests more easily accessed by them.”

“If it weren’t for IWPR journalists, no one would have paid attention to our problem,” said Marina Khvedelidze, of the village of Tkelvani.

“We have already brought some of the firewood over here. The important thing is that we’ve been able to use the vouchers in time, and our children won’t freeze in the winter.”

The twice-monthly programme Accent is produced as part of IWPR’s Georgia Regional Media Network Project, involving journalists from around the country. It is broadcast by four popular radio stations in Georgia, and is aimed at improving the flow of news and information to the country’s regions and breakaway territories.

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