After the Flood
The Rioni river basin is one of the most vulnerable areas in Georgia susceptible to various extreme climate events.
Floods, landslides and mud torrents are increasing in both intensity and frequency causing extensive damage to agriculture, forests, roads and communications. More than 10,000 hectares of agricultural land fell out of use in the past decade due to hydro-meteorological disasters. This is all the more painful for a country whose average land plot size per person is a mere 0.14 hectares.
- More than 200,000 people in the Rion River basin suffer from persisting hydro-meteorological disasters.
- 10,000 hectares of arable land was lost in the last 10 years because of floods.
- UNDP works with the communities directly to introduce effective flood management.
Natela Benidze from the rural village of Chalistavi was one of those people hit hardest by flooding and landslides. In the past few years, she’s already lost nearly 0.5 hectares of land due to flooding and erosion. Her family once grew corn and other crops on the fertile land by the river. Now only 0.20 hectares remain.
Natela’s husband, Badri Saginadze says that the floods have been increasing since 1985. Originally, his family lived closer to mountains, but due to landslide risk, the whole settlement was relocated to the riverside. Yet, the village does not have a proper early warning system, which means that inhabitants on the riverside need to evacuate as fast as possible once they hear a siren from a nearby hydropower dam in case of flood, exposing the elderly and sick to great risk. Recently, one old woman died, as she did not hear the siren go off.
Eteri Shavladze from nearby Chrebalo village tells us that her cattle and chicken were washed away during floods. She is now left only with barren land with big stones where her green orchard and vineyard once stood. Eteri also thinks that the flooding has exacerbated in the past 20 years.
- Vegetative covers improve water saturation and transmission.
- Trenching, terracing and re-plantation protect villages from coming water.
- Deep root bush and shrub zones, nut tree and tea plantations reduce the risk of flooding.
Currently she and six neighbouring households experience flooding twice a year, with the water coming in as far as her cellar.
The Government focuses on the structural measures that in the long-run will help the affected regions to become more resilient to floods. However, the persisting problems experienced by Natela, Badri, Eteri and more than 200,000 people in six municipalities of the Rioni river basin call for immediate solutions that can ease people’s life.
The innovative practices, such as bio-engineering, are based on a detailed risk assessment and provide people with effective though simple solutions to reduce the damage from floods. The population learns how to make vegetative covers to improve water saturation and transmission; how trenching, terracing and re-plantation can protect villages from coming water; and what are the benefits of deep root bush and shrub zones, nut tree and tea plantations for reducing the risk of flooding.
The flood prevention works provide additional source of income to the local residents, huge benefit in the region where the unemployment rate is double the national average, reaching an estimated 33 percent.
The project which began in 2012 targets an estimated 200,000 people in six municipalities in the Rioni River basin in Georgia. While we cannot stop the floods or other natural disasters, we can reduce the risk and assist those most vulnerable to build a resistance to the damage they wreak.