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

Georgian Villagers Grateful for Investigation

By IWPR
  • A field in the village of Jinvali covered with leaking sewage. (Photo: IWPR)
    A field in the village of Jinvali covered with leaking sewage. (Photo: IWPR)
  • Gela Gogishvili, a local resident whose fields were covered in sewage every time it rained. (Photo: IWPR)
    Gela Gogishvili, a local resident whose fields were covered in sewage every time it rained. (Photo: IWPR)
  • Local government has started replacing the water and sewage pipes in Jinvali. (Photo: IWPR)
    Local government has started replacing the water and sewage pipes in Jinvali. (Photo: IWPR)

Georgian villagers have thanked IWPR for an investigation that triggered moves to resolve a serious local environmental and health problem. (See: Georgians Kick Up a Stink Over Sewage)

The sewage system of the village of Jinvali had been broken since 1987, and raw sewage poured across the road into a nearby orchard. From the fields, it would trickle into the Bodorni reservoir, which is 45 kilometres from Tbilisi.

Now work has started on relaying sewage pipes and the impact has already been felt.

Activists who alerted IWPR’s Tea Topuria to the problem were concerned the pollution could harm residents of the capital, but the villagers had more immediate concerns and were delighted by the article’s impact.

“A couple of weeks ago they brought tractors and cleaned the channel down which the sewage was draining into the Bodorni reservoir. You can’t compare what we have now with what we had before. I am very grateful to whoever it was who managed to get this problem solved,” said Gela Gogishvili, a local resident whose fields were covered in sewage every time it rained.

Activists who alerted IWPR’s Tea Topuria to the problem were concerned the pollution could harm residents of the capital, but the villagers had more immediate concerns and were delighted by the article’s impact.

While researching the story, Topuria asked the environment ministry to comment on the situation in Jinvali, and as a result, a representative visited the village to check.

“As a result of the inspection it was confirmed that the sewage system has fallen completely into disrepair, and sewage water and faecal masses have poured onto land reserved for agricultural use belonging to the local residents. The water then pours into the river Aragvi,” the ministry told IWPR.

It said it had informed local officials about the village’s problems.

“If the local authorities do not resolve the problem in the near future, they will be fined in accordance with environmental law,” it said.

Local residents, however, said they doubted the local government had the resources to solve the problem entirely. They said they were preparing an appeal to the central government in the hope it would allocate more resources to them.

“They have already changed the sewage pipes in our area, and they’ve promised to do so in the whole village. No one worried about us before, about what conditions people were living in, but finally the government has decided to resolve this problem. Thanks be to God, because life had become intolerable, especially in summer,” said Lali Buchukuri, who lives in a Jinvali apartment block that has been regularly surrounded by sewage.

It was not entirely clear why officials had not taken action before IWPR investigated, but residents were glad they had. “It is good that they have at last remembered us. I probably won’t get a decent harvest this season, but may God grant that this problem is now solved once and for all,” farmer Vano Kashiashvili said.


Elsewhere, An IWPR seminar on new media brought together young people from Armenia and Azerbaijan, serving the twin aims of uniting people from different cultures who rarely meet and explaining important new online tools to them.

Enmity between the two countries means developments in one do not get properly reported in the other, even though they are neighbours and the seminar hoped to help correct this.

Some 20 participants – ten from each country – took part in the February sessions in Tbilisi, Georgia, under IWPR’s “Neighbours” programme, which is unique in the Caucasus region. The programme groups young journalists from Armenia and Azerbaijan into a training programme and produces a joint Armenian–Azerbaijani supplement.

The topic of the latest supplement – ethnic and religious minorities of Armenia and Azerbaijan – gave the authors the opportunity to get acquainted with new, interesting and little-reported problems and way of life.

"When IWPR invited me to act as a trainer at a meeting of Armenian and Azerbaijani journalists in Tbilisi, I jumped at the chance, not least because recent reports indicate that the media in both countries still fail to objectively and accurately report on the other,” trainer Onnik Krikorian said.

“This often reinforces and sometimes even creates negative stereotypes which do little to contribute to an understanding of the conflict between the two countries or help contribute to conflict transformation and resolution.”

An announcement inviting participation in the seminar was made via IWPR Armenia branch subscribers and the organisation’s Facebook page. The announcement aroused great interest among young journalists and IWPR received more than 30 applications.

In Azerbaijan, a special training workshop was held to select participants for the Tbilisi seminar.

Applicants had to already be writing a blog and the selection was made according to the quality of these blogs, which were required to reflect the important political and social issues concerning young people. Applicants needed a good command of Russian and English, basic skills in working with photo and video cameras; and the ability and willingness to work with an international team.

More than 20 young journalists from Armenia and Azerbaijan have taken part in the IWPR project so far. Six joint seminars have been conducted and around 60 articles written for the supplement, three issues of which have been produced in the Armenian and Azeri languages.

Sabina Abubekirova, who took part, said, “To my mind, civic journalism has become more popular in recent years and has a great impact on society, so I think that this training course will be very useful and important for me.”

The IWPR course in Tbilisi included practical exercises and concentrated mainly on using Twitter and Facebook as means of social networking. A session provided an overview of the growing importance of new/social media for national and international media organisations, especially at a time of financial stringency and the growth of citizens’ or alternative media and the potential role of new/social media in the South Caucasus.

“With the media the world over adopting new online tools such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook for a variety of purposes such as identifying and covering breaking news as well as distributing content more widely, such an opportunity is not only important, but it is also timely,” Krikorian said.

Hrayr Manukyan, a training participant, said, “Most important for me personally was the acquaintance with Twitter and skills for posting a variety of material on Facebook and Twitter ... It lets a bigger audience read what I am writing for the newspaper.”
Lilit Nurijanyan, a journalist from Yerevan, said, “I understood how useful Twitter can be for journalism. When we had to write tweets, it was very difficult at first, as I had to pick up the most important part of what I want to convey. Since the training and my introduction to Twitter, I use it every day.”

As a result of this project, IWPR has built a network of young journalists from Armenia and Azerbaijan, who have learned to work, socialise and study alongside each other.

“Indeed, if anything, there is a need for greater cooperation and communication between media professionals in Armenia and Azerbaijan. The ability to introduce journalists to new online tools is obviously vital as traditional links have broken down. And as non-government linked media outlets in the region increasingly find themselves having to go online, it is also crucial that journalists keep up with the latest developments so as to contribute to their work and reach an increasing online audience,” Krikorian said.

More than 20 young journalists from Armenia and Azerbaijan have taken part in the IWPR project so far. Six joint seminars have been conducted and around 60 articles written for the supplement, three issues of which have been produced in the Armenian and Azeri languages.

The supplements produced by the trainees have been widely noticed. On the day one was published, Armenia's human rights ombudsman, Armen Harutiunyan, invited IWPR and Neighbours participants who worked on the publication to meet him to express his support in covering issues around minorities in Armenia.

“I salute the publication of the supplement describing the problems of national minorities in Armenia and Azerbaijan. It is critically important to provide balanced reporting on problems of national minorities in a mono-ethnic country like Armenia,” Harutiunyan said.

“It is diversity that creates a more tolerant society, and our country lacks tolerance in all spheres. The human rights office of Armenia is ready to cooperate both with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and individual journalists involved in the Neighbours project within the framework of seminars, preparation of articles and other activities.”

“I often go to Azerbaijan and have been able to read the Armenian-Azeri supplement regularly,” journalist Zaur Dargali, an ethnic Azeri living in Georgia, said. “The latest issue, the one about ethnic minorities, was particularly interesting to me. I am a representative of an ethnic minority myself, and I’ve found that our problems are similar to those faced by minorities everywhere in the South Caucasus.” 

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