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Air pollution in Georgia: the right to receive information

There are many environmental challenges in Georgia, including air pollution. Air pollution is harmful to human life and health, as well as the environment. Research shows that in addition to  mortality in humans, it can lead to heart, and blood and respiratory diseases, as well as respiratory diseases, in  some cases it also causes heart attacks, asthma. Air pollution not only has short-term negative consequences, but also acts in the long run when environmental pollution occurs where  future generations are to grow, posing a threat to them as well.  

Based on the experience of different countries including Georgia, we can say that air pollution is caused by a number of factors, both natural and anthropogenic. Among man-made causes of air pollution, there is non-compliance with construction rules, transport emissions, lack of sufficient greenery to clean the air, lack of  regulations governing the operation of factories, and so on. 

The aim of this article is to review the legal regulations on air pollution in Georgia and to  discuss the availability of information on air pollution in terms of discrimination, mainly  based on the example of Tbilisi. 

Over the years, the international community has noted the critical situation in Georgia in  terms of air pollution, and Tbilisi has constantly been listed as one of the most polluted  capitals in Europe. Numerous studies and reports have touched on the current difficult  situation in Georgia, including reports from the World Health Organization, research by the US Environmental Protection Agency, and more. These studies confirm that the indicators of air pollution in Georgia do not meet international standards. 

The Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture Ture of Georgia is the state agency, which oversees environmental issues in Georgia. The issues of inventory of airborne substances in the atmospheric air and air quality monitoring are the responsibility of the  LEPL – National Environment Agency, which is part of the system of the Ministry. The  Department of Environmental Supervision ensures the monitoring of the established  standards and norms for air quality.There is also a Committee on Environment and Natural  Resources in the Parliament of Georgia, as well as various international and local environmental organizations, such as the Caucasus Environmental Network – CENN. However, Georgia faces major challenges in controlling air pollution. 

The Legislation of Georgia in the field of ambient air protection consists of the Constitution  of Georgia, treaties and international agreements of Georgia, the Law of Georgia on  Environmental Protection, the Law of Georgia on Health Care, this Law and other legal and  subordinate normative acts.1 

In 1991, Georgia passed a law on the protection of ambient air, the main goals of this Law are: 

  1. to ensure the protection of fundamental human rights established by the Constitution of Georgia in the field of environmental protection, in particular, to live in a healthy  environment and enjoy the natural and cultural environment;  
  2. to ensure the protection of ambient air, as one of the main components of the  environment, in accordance with environmental and economic interests of society and  taking into account the interests of present and future generations; 
  3. to provide a legal framework to resolve common global and regional problems in the field  of ambient air protection. 

In addition to protecting the human right to live in a health-safe environment, also a  constitutional principle is to provide to people timely information on the state of the  environment

According to Article 29 of the Constitution of Georgia “Everyone has the right to receive full  information about the state of the environment in a timely manner”. 

In 2018, the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture operates the LEPL  Environmental Information and Education Center, which is responsible for timely and full  awareness of the environment. The given center has created an information portal – www.air.gov.ge, the website provides information on air pollution indicators in cities in  Georgia. 

However, it is possible to find information on the portal only in part, since the data is not available in  most cities, among them, it is impossible to find information about the air condition in at  least a third of the capital’s territory. The reason given on the portal is that there is no such  data, much less information can be found in other cities of Georgia than in Tbilisi. Consequently the portal does not provide complete information about the  environment in which people live. 

According to the 2020 data of the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of  Georgia, there are 5 automatic air pollution monitoring stations in Tbilisi:

Marjanishvili Street 
Tsereteli Avenue
Vashlijvari 
Aleksandre Kazbegi Avenue
Varketili Street 

There are even fewer air pollution monitoring stations in other cities, for example, 3 stations  in Rustavi and so on. People who live in the suburbs and also in the regions do not have  access to information.

The Constitution of Georgia and also the Administrative Code strengthen the right to receive  public information. At the same time, it is a constitutional standard that information about  the state of the environment is public information, therefore it should be available to  everyone as it would be in other cases of public information. Therefore, public authorities are obliged to provide access to the information provided to the population. 

The Constitution of Georgia also strengthens the right of all people to access information  about the state of the environment in a separate article, explaining that all people are equal  before the law and therefore prohibited from discrimination on any grounds, be it national,  ethnic, religious or otherwise, including territorial discrimination. 

In this case, the most important element of discrimination is territorial, because we are dealing with the restriction of the right ro access information about pollution levels in the majority of areas in the country. Even most districts of Tbilisi do not have information about the state of the environment, as the state cannot provide this information.