On 11 December, International Mountain Day, the Government of Georgia presented some key directions of the Strategy on Development of the High Mountainous Regions of Georgia 2019-2023 to be adopted by the Government of Georgia after a series of public consultations. The draft document was prepared by the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia with assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the governments of Switzerland and Austria.
The event was opened by Mamuka Bakhtadze, Prime Minister of Georgia. This was followed by the addresses from Maia Tskitishvili, Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia; H.E. Arad Benkö, Ambassador of Austria to Georgia; and Munkhtuya Altangerel, Acting Head of UNDP in Georgia.
Georgia adopted the Law on Development of High Mountainous Regions in 2016 as part of the Government’s efforts to address challenges of the highland population and promote sustainable development of the Georgian mountains. Since then, 1,730 settlements in Georgia’s highlands have received a high mountain status, 400 enterprises have benefitted from tax exemption and more than 200 thousand people have received monetary and other types of assistance exceeding GEL 115 million.
The new strategy will make this progress speedier and more sustainable and will benefit over 300 thousand highlanders in Georgia, while focusing on local entrepreneurship, effective use of renewable energy, waste management, environmental tourism and other developmental initiatives.
“Only 9% of Georgians live in the high mountainous regions but economic and social potential of highlands is much higher,” said Munkhtuya Altangerel, Acting Head of UNDP in Georgia. “Mountains are an invaluable resource of clean energy, water, food and economic activity that Georgia still has to fully explore.”
The International Mountain Day has been celebrated since 2003, although Georgia marks it for the first time ever. The theme of 2018 – #MountainsMatter – acknowledges the crucial role of highlands in providing key ecosystem goods and services to the planet and highlights their vulnerability in the face of climate change and economic challenges.