Environment Minister Praises Ivanishvili for His Tree-Collecting

The Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia Levan Davitashvili has released a statement aimed at defending ruling Georgian Dream (GD) founder, Chair and ex-Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and his private arboretum in Ureki, from criticism.

It is well known that over recent years, billionaire Ivanishvili, who is the richest man in this small, post-Soviet country, has been transporting giant and unique trees from around Georgia to his personal arboretum in the coastal Adjara region. Last year, it was reported by media that Ivanishvili has plans to transport around 50 trees to his arboretum. It is unknown exactly how many old trees have already been uprooted and taken to his garden.

Sometimes the trees are so large that other trees are cut down during the process of removal or branches are cut from trees on private property to make space.

Moreover, very often the holes made after uprooting the centuries-old giant trees, are left unfilled. Ivanishvili first received permission to begin moving trees in December 2015. Since then, every time he targets a new tree, the opposition and environmentalists slam the government; however, the Minister of Environment has now said the process is entirely legal.

“Georgia will have a unique dendrological park. The fact is that with the goodwill of Bidzina Ivanishvili, another important project is underway in our country. In fact, a new monument of nature is being created. It is simply absurd to say that arranging such a unique place has a negative impact on the environment," says Davitashvili's statement, which was released by the Ministry on August 1.

The Minister claims that implementation of this project will have social and economic benefits because private companies are involved in the process, and “special techniques and equipment have been brought to Georgia that will be involved in various infrastructural projects in the future.”

According to Davitashvili, Ivanishvili’s Cartu Fund spends millions of GEL arranging roads and infrastructure in the areas where the trees are transported. He claims the local population also profits from the process because some trees are private property and Ivanishvili buys them.

The Minister underlined that the State has no "luxury" to provide resources for such projects, adding that Ivanishvili’s contribution is of great importance.

In April, 14 Georgian opposition parties raised money to pay for a 100-year-old Eucalyptus tree on the Green Cape, near Georgia’s Black Sea coastal city of Batumi.

The parties acquired the tree after winning an auction announced by the Ministry of Finance. The opposition claimed they bought the tree to save it from Ivanishvili and “his obsession of tree-collecting.” The initial price of the tree was 7,000 GEL ($2,900) but the last bid was GEL 20,020 ($8,168). According to opposition, they had only one competitor in the auction – the company which serves Ivanishvili and transports giant trees to his private arboretum.

After buying the tree, the parties decided to leave it in place and not to transport it anywhere.

By Thea Morrison

02 August 2018 17:08
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