The hippo has a new home, and the penguins have given up their wandering ways. Three months after a flood devastated Tbilisi’s city zoo, killing three zookeepers and 277 animals, the facility, a beloved spot for a family outing, has reopened. But questions remain about its future.
No sooner had images of a hippopotamus lost on a central street in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi gone viral this summer than offers of financial help for recovery from the city’s June 13-14 flood began to pour in. Yet, today, with well over $8.3 million raised from a variety of sources, questions have surfaced about how transparently and effectively the government is managing the money.
As the Georgian capital Tbilisi struggles to recover from a calamitous flash flood, a political storm is brewing – one in which incumbent authorities are trying to blame their predecessors for shortcomings exposed by the tragedy.
Legislators in Georgia are amending laws designed to hinder Georgian citizens from joining militant groups fighting in Syria. Despite the recent step, some critics contend the government could do more to address the issue.
Few Westerners doubt the South Caucasus country of Georgia’s commitment to eventual integration with Europe. But as a massive currency devaluation tightens the squeeze on Georgia’s relatively fragile economy, calls are increasing for ordinary Georgians to reconsider the actual benefits of that commitment.
The European Union is making a push to raise its profile in two trouble spots in the South Caucasus, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Brussels insists its forays in the region are nothing more than routine diplomacy. But some observers believe the EU is hoping to push back against Russia’s troublemaking in Ukraine.
Georgian cinema has the wind at its back once again after spending a lengthy period in the creative doldrums. With two films short-listed for an Oscar, one of which is also up for a Golden Globe, Georgian directors have risen from the ashes of a collapsed film industry, showing that even with limited resources it is possible to make world-class films.
The Russian-owned mining company RMG Gold this past Saturday, December 13, overlooked an earlier court order and went ahead and started working a piece of Georgian land, Sakdrisi, that many archeologists claim contains the world’s oldest known gold mine. Opponents to the mining operation are putting up a fight, but, as yet, the economic odds appear stacked against them.
The battle began in July 2013, when Georgia’s Ministry of Culture abolished Sakdrisi’s seven-year-old status as a permanently protected historical site. The decision produced a sharp reaction from local civil society activists and international academics.
In June, the Tbilisi City Court overruled the Ministry of Culture’s decision about Sakdrisi’s status, putting a hold on mining operations. RMG Gold and archaeologists were supposed to discuss a compromise, but, apparently, matters were taking too long for the mining company, believed to be one of Georgia's largest taxpayers.
Unexpectedly, the culture ministry late last week gave the green-light for mining operations to start up again.
The archeological site sits on a 22.24-acre plot of land believed to contain 75 percent of an estimated 20 tons of gold. At $38.83 per gram, that’s nothing to sneer at.
Gold happens to be one of Georgia’s top ten exports and brought in $3.52 million in 2013, or 2.9 percent of the country’s total export earnings. As of earlier this year, RMG, which owns the plot of land on which Sakdrisi stands, has invested $300 million into the cash-strapped Georgian economy, according to Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili.