BP stopped in its tracks | WWF

BP stopped in its tracks

Posted on 27 July 2004    
Construction of the BTC oil pipeline in the Little Caucasus, at Zchrac'kdaro Pass in the Borjomi National Park support zone, Georgia.
© WWF / Hartmut Jungius
A pipeline under construction by BP was halted in the highly contentious Borjomi section this week by the Georgian Ministry of Environment, after WWF alerts of BP operating without government permits and failing to adhere to best practice.

"BP consider themselves above the law on this project and again demonstrate little respect for the local environment or the Borjomi region," commented James Leaton, Extractives Policy Officer at WWF-UK.

The controversial 1700km Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline is planned to run from Azerbaijan, through Georgia, to Turkey. WWF believes the pipeline poses unacceptable risks to people and nature in the Caucasus as it threatens internationally significant biodiversity as well as natural resources that are the basis of economic prosperity in the region.

In Georgia, tourism in the Borjomi National Park and the Borjomi mineral water industry are of particular concern. According to WWF, any incident in this area would pollute the river systems indefinitely, wipe out the reputation of the mineral water industry, and destroy the social and economic fabric of the region.

WWF also believes that BP’s ‘measurements’ of the pipeline's impacts are inadequate, and that their environmental assessments to date are fundamentally flawed. For example, the region is subject to 300 seismic events a year, and is likely to experience an event measuring 7 on the Richter Scale during the lifetime of the pipeline.

WWF staff have visited sites in the Kodiana mountains above Borjomi and witnessed the unapproved construction. They raised the issue with the Ministry of Environment and provided film footage of the area.

WWF commends the way the Georgian government has enforced the requirements of the contracts signed with BP. The new administration has also stated that if it faced the route selection process again it would not select the Borjomi route. WWF has always maintained that the route selection process through this section was flawed.

Ms Tamar Lebanidze, Georgia's Environmental Minister, in an interview with local newspaper 24 Hours admits he would have chosen a different route for the pipeline within the region and points to certain issues where BP has not lived up to contractual commitments. One requirement was for BP to investigate alternative routes, but this has not been fulfilled.

BP needs to complete construction in Georgia this summer to meet its completion deadline next year. The company appears willing to railroad construction through this section in order to meet its timetable, to the detriment of Georgia's environmentally sensitive areas.

"BP have focused solely on creating a public relations bubble around this project; unfortunately it has burst," said James Leaton. "In June, BP were so busy opening their new glossy information centre in Borjomi they forgot to actually gain the necessary permits to build in the area."

WWF will be submitting evidence of this contractual breach to the UK Select Committee on Trade and Industry, which is already conducting an inquiry into the UK's involvement in the pipeline through the Export Credits Guarantee Department.

For further information:
James Leaton
Extractive Industries Policy Officer, WWF-UK
E-mail: JLeaton@wwf.org.uk
Tel: +44 1483 412513
Construction of the BTC oil pipeline in the Little Caucasus, at Zchrac'kdaro Pass in the Borjomi National Park support zone, Georgia.
© WWF / Hartmut Jungius Enlarge

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