Georgia's Overlooked Disaster Victims
Thousands of people have lost homes in landslides and floods but few have been resettled.
A powerful flood in April 2010 left several families in village of Mleta (Dusheti district) without a home. Officials say they can’t provide new houses for flood victims at the moment and suggest that they stay in a school building in a neighbouring village. (Photo: Giorgi Kupatadze) Mleta locals say it was a miracle that no one died in the April 2010 flood, when the Aragvi river, blocked by a landslide, overflowed and burst into villagers’ homes during the night. (Photo: Giorgi Kupatadze) Mariam Gagadze, 87, lost her house in the April 2010 flood. Most of her family left Mleta - Mariam remained with one of her sons in a neighbour’s house. (Photo: Giorgi Kupatadze) Whenever there’s heavy rain and the risk of flooding in Mleta, the parents of Khatia, 2, and her eight- and one-year-old brothers send them to relatives in other villages. (Photo: Giorgi Kupatadze) The spot where Gigi is doing his homework was submerged during the April 2010 flood. (Photo: Giorgi Kupatadze) Despite their difficult situation, not one family from Mleta was included in a state programme providing help to vulnerable families. They are not even on the official list of 11 000 families who require urgent resettlement. (Photo: Giorgi Kupatadze) People in Mleta say they monitor river water levels closely so they have enough time to evacuate their homes in the event of a flood. (Photo: Giorgi Kupatadze) Only people who have no where else to go remain in Mleta. Experts from the national environmental agency, part of the ministry of environment protection and natural resources, recommended that the villagers should be resettled. (Photo: Giorgi Kupatadze) The residents of Sharakhevi in the Tianeti region are requesting official help after a landslide ruined several houses last spring. Experts say the risk of another landslide remains. (Photo: Giorgi Kupatadze) Marta Mgeliashvili, 84, says that officials visited Sharakhevi after the landslide and promised help, but none has been forthcoming. (Photo: Giorgi Kupatadze) Families who stay in Sharakhevi fear new landslides in a month or two when snow high in the mountains starts melting. (Photo: Giorgi Kupatadze)
More than 11,000 Georgian families are currently living in homes ruined or irreparably damaged by natural disasters, according to official data. The state has pledged to resettle them, but there’s been little progress and they are forced to live in dangerous circumstances.
The Georgian government’s environment agency says the country’s mountainous regions are most at risk from natural disasters. A survey it conducted in 2006 identified 53,000 potential landslides threatening 1.5 million hectares, with 70 per cent of them near inhabited land. Some 3,000 towns and villages were directly threatened by the risk of landslide.
Between 1987 and 2010, more than 400 have people died in natural disasters. In 2008, all the members of two families in Ajara, a region on the shore of the Black Sea, were killed by landslides. Villagers were warned about the risk of a landslide, but were not resettled.
Official statistics indicate that the process of resettlement is going very slowly. Figures from the ministry for refugees and resettlement show only 429 houses were provided in 2007-9 for those displaced by natural disasters. The 2010-2011 budget does not set aside funds for such accommodation.
The photos were taken in the villages of Mleta and Sharakhevi in the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, eastern Georgia.