• Poti Residents Demand for Cleaner Air
  • One hundred families displaced from Abkhazia and living in two old buildings on Javakhishvili Street in Poti have been demanding that the mayor’s office and the Georgia’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture improve the ecological situation around the buildings, including gathering data about atmospheric air conditions.

    After five years of fighting, they agreed to accept compensation paid by the city and to move to new accommodations. One of their most important reasons for moving is the worsened health status of their children, following confirmation that the concentration of lead in their bodies is higher than permissible levels.


    The Agreement Reached So Far

    Some families have signed a unified Agreement on Property Redemption. Eventually the city will agree to individual contracts with the families and pay them $US 700 per square meter. 

    Activist Ramaz Kubetsia, a resident of Javakhishvili street, told “Cactus” no specific date has been set for signing individual contracts. 

    Ramaz Kubetsia in front of Poti municipality mayor's ofiice, after resettlement negotiation meeting © Cactus, 21/12/2023


    After money is transferred, the families must move, and can be fined if they breach the contract.  


    30 Javakhishvili Street 

    The two buildings located at 30 Javakhishvili Street in the Nabada district of Poti belonged to the Dormitory of Naval Academy Students. After independence from the Soviet Union, 100 families displaced from Abkhazia settled in the buildings which had lost function. They were registered as owners in 2 000th. 

    One of the residential houses located at 30 Javakhishvili where the city is planning to pay residents to leave. Photo © Cactus, 21/12/2023 

    The building balconies directly overlook the Poti port cargo terminal. 

    “We would like to move out for our kids’ sake,” says Nino Tsulaia, a resident who names children whose tests show high concentrations of heavy metal, in particular lead.  

    “It’s already been a month this cargo lies here in the open,” she says, gesturing at nearby piles of loose yellow sulfur. “When the wind blows, we cannot go out. It burns my eyes. It even starts burning itself sometimes.”

    Piles of loose yellow sulfur at Poti port can be seen from the buildings on Javakhishvili St. Photo © Cactus, 21/12/2023  


    The citizens have repeatedly called representatives of the Department of Environmental Supervision. “They do come, take photos, laugh and leave the territory,” Tsulaia said. 


    What does the Department of Environmental Supervision Say?

    Last November 27, “Cactus” requested public information from the Department of Environmental Supervision, including copies of documents related to any possible environmental administrative or criminal offenses committed by companies working in Poti in the last five years. 

    Despite promises by an administrator, “Cactus” has not received this data.  

    Black Sea wharfs in Poti belong to the Pace Group. This map shows the two buildings located on Javakhishvili St. circled in green and the Pace Group property circled in yellow. Clearly visible are the piles of yellow sulfur. © Airbus Earth Observation Satellite Imagery Services 


    How many terminals are in Poti and what contamination do they cause? 

    “Cactus” requested from the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development the list of the terminals currently working in Poti. The Ministry confirmed receipt of this request [№17609/11] last November 20, but have not yet responded. 

    Some data is published by the Maritime Transport Agency of Georgia. According to its webpage, Georgia is connected to the world through five Black Sea ports [Batumi Sea Port, Poti Sea PortKulevi Oil TerminalSupsa Terminal and Pace Terminal]. 


    Pace Group

    According to its website, Pace Group owns eight wharfs and dozens of companies registered in Georgia. It receives and launches ships, controls freight turnover, and warehouses cargos outdoors and indoors. Pace Group also serves British Petroleum (BP) by importing and installing pipes to increase the flow capacity for the major Shah Deniz 2 natural gas pipeline. 

    Layout of Pace Group terminals and wharfs at Poti port. Visuals © Pace Group 


    One of the services of Pace Terminal is “Warehouse” which covers 20,000 square meters indoors and 140,000 square meters outdoors. The balconies of the 30 Javakhishvili St. buildings overlook these outdoor storage areas. 

    Behind the yellow piles there are also some black piles. 

    Black piles on Pace Group territory at Poti Port. Next to the piles one can see open railroad wagons © Airbus Earth Observation Satellite Imagery Services 

    “Despite the fact that I am a chemist-biologist, I can’t recognize what the black piles are,” says Tsulaia. “It terribly pollutes the air. We are not able to clean windows even with chlorine. It looks like glue. Can you imagine how our lungs look? I don’t even want to think about it.” 

    In 2016 Pace Terminal Ltd was granted the right to construct or reconstruct its wharfs. That same year an environmental impact document was issued to them. This document defines the following types of environmental impact during construction:  

    Spread of inorganic dust in atmospheric air; Spread of combustion products in atmospheric air; Noise pollution in the vicinity of living zone; Destruction of the fertile layer of soil; soil/ground pollution; surface [sea] and groundwater pollution; Visual-landscape changes; impact on flora and fauna, and impact on transport flow. 

    There are several environmental obligations for Pace Terminal Ltd., to mitigate the impact on water, soil, air, and biodiversity. The company also is obliged to be accountable and present reports to the Ministry on the construction activities.

    In 2021 the civil activist group “Poti Citizens for their Rights" collected information for a hearing at Poti City Court. The group demanded that the mayor’s office and the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture work out an air quality management plan. After one hearing, the case was moved to Tbilisi City Court. No additional hearing of the case took place since. 


    Atmospheric Air Conditions in Poti

    A Ministry official told “Cactus” the air quality management plan does not exist for Poti yet, but that work began in December on and is called “Air Quality Management Plan of the Black Sea Coastline” that may be ready this summer. No more specific date of its completion was specified to Cactus by the ministry representative.  

    Unlike in four other cities of Georgia, currently air quality is not  measured at any specific site in Poti on daily basis and the data is very scanty. The solid particles [PM10 and PM2.5] are not measured too.


    State Lead Program of Georgia

    Two years ago, high concentrations of lead were found in the blood of one of Luba Chalaia’s children. After that lead testing, representatives of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health [NCDC] visited Poti and met Chalaia and other parents once.

    Luba Chalaia from Javakhishvili Street, who together with her neighbors met Poti’s mayor on December 20. Photo © Cactus, 21/12/2023


    “The mayor brought to Poti doctors from Iashvili Hospital clinic, and they told us to get consultations,” Chalaia said. “They checked the children superficially and prescribed some vitamins for them. It was as if they did their duty but did not take it seriously. Since then, no one has asked any questions.” 

    At the beginning of 2022 “Cactus” was told that due to a reduction in funding, the state lead program in Poti would no longer be able to accept new patients.  

    In 2023, Chalaia asked the mayor’s office to be included in the State Lead Program to get benefits for her child whose blood test showed a high concentration of lead. The mayor’s office said it would pay 70 lari [about $US26] per year for “vitamins” with a doctor’s recommendation. But she did not get any benefit at all from the program. 

    As there are numerous types of pollution in Poti coming from different sources, parents find it difficult to prove the exact sources of lead or other types of pollution.



    by Tsira Gvasalia. 

    Tsira Gvasalia is an investigative & science journalist based in Tbilisi, Georgia, with a strong background of working on long-term projects, including documentary films. She has worked for several Georgian print and online media organizations since 2010 and has also contributed to international media outlets. She has been focusing on investigating corruption connected to natural resource extraction and environmental pollution in Georgia, and Russian business interests in precious metals' mining in South Caucasus.