Environmental issues in Georgia
Like other republics of the USSR, Georgia suffered severe environmental degradation during the Soviet period, when economic policies emphasizing heavy industry were implemented with little regard for their environmental consequences. Significant amounts of agriculture lands have been lost in land erosions. As a legacy of these policies, Georgia now suffers from serious pollution. Municipal waste is disposed in poorly managed landfills. Air pollution is a problem in the major cities, particularly in Rustavi, which has a giant steel plant and other metal and chemicals production. Traffic is another great contributor to the pollution of an air. Furthermore, the Kura River and the Black Sea are heavily polluted with industrial waste. As a result of water pollution and the scarcity of water treatment, the incidence of digestive diseases in Georgia is high.
Due to low production and low economic development, the industrial waste has significantly decreased during late 1990s and early 2000s, however at the moment there are no industrial waste treatment facilities, therefore all the waste produced is being disposed into the environment without a treatment. The use of pesticides and fertilizers has increased soil toxicity as during 1980s up to 30,000 tons of pesticides have been used in Georgia annually.
The biggest threat to the environment are over 2,5 tons of hazardous chemicals that have been buried at the Mt. Iagluji, at the depth of 20 meters, over 10 years, since mid 1970s. Georgia does not energy resources and it is dependant on Russian gas and oil. Environmental protection did not become a major concern among Georgians until the mid-1980s, but even then systems to control harmful emissions were not readily available. Georgia’s economic problems have hindered the application of recent emission-control technologies. Hardship and low life quality forced people to over use natural resources, particularly firewood. The protection of upland pastures and hill farms from soil erosion is another pressing issue that the government has not addressed owing to lack of economic resources. The government has ratified international environmental agreements pertaining to air pollution, biodiversity, climate change, ozone layer protection, ship pollution, and wetlands.
Global warming has quite similar effects on all high mountains, therefore Caucasus region faces the same threat as, for example the Alps, in Europe, the Rocky Mt. in the USA, the Andes of south America or Kilimanjaro Mt. in east Africa. Glaciers in North Caucasus have retreated for 50% in the 20th century, with most drastic changes since 1998. Melting of snow and ice sheet changes the water regime within the region, where most people depend on reserves of water preserved in glaciers over winter, which are being released during the summer, depending on hydropower of rivers formed by glaciers, and their contribution to agriculture. Avalanches on Caucasus always posed a threat, however, with the higher average temperatures, melting snow may cause these catastrophes to occur much more frequent.
Followed by these habitat and ecosystem changes, biodiversity of Caucasus is vanishing. This region is known as biodiversity hotspot, teeming with life, since it represented on of the greatest European refugium for species, during The Great Ice Age. Today, life in Caucasus is threatened with both direct human activity within the area, and global consequences of human activity, such as greenhouse gases emission and warming.