Georgia’s Martvili Canyon Wins Council of Europe Award

The Martvili Canyon Development Project, carried out by the Agency of Protected Areas of Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, has been named winner of the Landscape Award held within the Council of Europe Landscape Convention.

Martvili village is located in the Samegrelo region of Western Georgia, 280 kilometers from Tbilisi. Martvili is one of the most popular canyons in Georgia and is divided into two parts, Upper and Lower. Paddle a dingy along the canyon from the Upper part to discover the 12-meter waterfall, or walk the renovated trail through the woods, past the steps ancient kings once used to access the natural pool. Due to the high humidity, the walls of the canyon are covered with moss, lending it a very green and jungle-like appearance.

Martvili Canyon received the Natural Monument status in 2013 after which the Martvili Natural Monument Administration was established in 2015. Before this, the site was popular only among the local population.

The project reads that due to the lack of control, the site was much damaged, the fauna was suffering from illegal fishing and poaching and the flora was damaged.

Moreover, due to the lack of infrastructure, tourist safety was at risk. However, the situation changed rapidly when in 2015 the Agency of Protected Areas of Georgia, in the frame of co-operation with the Municipality of Martvili, started to implement the new project ‘Martvili Canyon Sustainable Development.’

As a part of the project, a visitor center, shelter and docks for boats, walking trails, viewpoints, and bridges were built and a 19th century water mill was rehabilitated. On the River Abasha, a communication system was constructed which serves to alert tourists of potential flooding. Canyon cleaning activities are carried out on a regular basis and where in the past one would have found dozens of bottles and plastic packaging in the canyon, now the area is fully clean and safe.

The program reads that the Government of Georgia decided to give boating territory with a 5-year lease to the local populations’ limited company Oputsokhi. This company invested GEL 90,000 (EUR 27,200) to purchase 25 high quality boats, safety vests and rescue equipment. Boaters and rescuers have also been trained.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia reports that 23 projects from member states were nominated for the Landscape Award. These 23 projects have played an important role in landscape restoration and set an example of how landscapes should be restored and managed.

Levan Davitashvili, the Minister of Environment and Agriculture, received an official letter from Maguelonne Déjeant-Pons, Executive Secretary of the European Landscape Convention, which notes that the Martvili project won the prize for its contribution to raising public awareness on environmental issues as well as for its special importance. The 2020 Award Ceremony will be held in the framework of the Council of Europe Landscape Forum.

Martvili Canyon is one of the most distinguished natural monuments of Georgia. In 2019, it was the most popular protected area. During the first eight months of this year, 150,000 people visited the canyon.

The European Landscape Convention aims to promote the protection, management and planning of landscapes and to bring together European co-operation in this field. It is the first international treaty exclusively devoted to all dimensions of European landscape. Taking into account the landscape, natural and cultural values of the territory, it contributes to promoting the quality of life and well-being of Europeans.

By Tea Mariamidze

Image source: Agency of Protected Areas

21 October 2019 17:57