Photo: Mamuka Chkhikvadze/UNDP

Pursuing its aspirations to become a “green city,” Batumi is transforming its public transport system with support from UNDP. Progress towards this goal was evident today, during a farewell visit to Georgia’s second city by UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton, who is completing her three-year mandate in the country.

After years of preparatory work and planning funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), in 2020 the municipality established 3.8 kilometres of bus and bicycle lanes in the city center and installed 30 multi-colour electronic information boards along the lanes to help passengers find the right route. In addition, seven new off-street hourly-paid parking zones were created in different parts of Batumi to free streets from chaotic parking. The parking zones can accommodate 230 cars in total and are equipped with digital technology to display information about vacant parking places and control parking time and fees.

UNDP has been working with Batumi City Hall and the City Council since 2015 to realize a new vision of urban mobility. Among the preparatory steps were a study of household mobility in 78 transport zones and a sustainable urban mobility plan that envisioned the introduction of a new parking model, optimisation of public transport and expansion of the biking network. Batumi then used the plans prepared with UNDP support to acquire a fleet of 40 low-emission and 8 zero-emission electric buses from the European Union (EU) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in 2018-2020.

A new bus fleet and a more sustainable transport model helped halve the number of minivans on the streets of Batumi and currently 13 of 19 municipal bus routes use the dedicated bus lanes.

During her visit to Batumi UNDP Head Vinton travelled the new bus lane in an electric bus and met with Chairperson of the Ajara Autonomous Republic Government Tornike Rizhvadze, Acting Batumi Mayor Archil Chiqovani and other officials – Batumi majoritarian member of the Ajara Supreme Council Tite Aroshidze, Director of the Municipal Bus Company Levan Lazariashvili, and the National Director of the Green Cities programme Etuna Lomadze.

“Batumi’s seaside charm is threatened by over-development and urban congestion,” said Vinton. “UNDP has helped local authorities to create a more sustainable model, which aims to make the city center a green oasis where residents and tourists alike can enjoy free air and more places to walk, bike and live.”

Vinton’s agenda also included a journey to the Machakhela National Park where UNDP helps protect unique biodiversity, promote green solutions in tourism and farming, and create economic opportunities for the communities living in close vicinity of the park.  UNDP support comes from a USD 1.8 million GEF-funded initiative that assists Georgia in strengthening its national network of protected areas.

With her visit to the Ajara Autonomous Republic, Vinton wraps up her three-year mission in Georgia.

“I was privileged to lead UNDP in Georgia in a challenging time that saw the pandemic emergency, economic crisis and social unrest,” Vinton said. “I am proud that in good times and bad, UNDP continues to be Georgia’s trusted partner, supporting the country in overcoming challenges and moving forward on a sustainable development path. As a strong believer in Georgia’s enormous development potential and great future, I am convinced that this amazing country will emerge from the crisis stronger than before.”

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