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According to the statement of the Majoritarian MP from Chiatura, Malkhaz Tsereteli: “The population of the Chiatura Municipality has decreased by 43% for the past 25 years and the number of socially vulnerable people in the municipality is the largest in the Imereti region. About 89% of the damage done to the environment in our country in 2013 and 2014 has been done in the Chiatura Municipality. Money-wise, this damage equals GEL 358 million. The Municipal hospital has not yet been established and 14,000 people are forced to travel to Zestaponi for adequate healthcare services. The population of the municipality is also inadequately provided with drinking water as about 50% of the people are still supplied with low-quality water.”

FactCheck

took interest in the problems in the Chiatura Municipality and verified the accuracy of Malkhaz Tsereteli’s statement.

According to the data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the population of Chiatura was 68.8 thousand people according to the 1990 universal population census. According to the 2002 population census, the population dropped to 56.3 thousand people whilst the 2014 census reflects that only 39.9 thousand people were living in Chiatura at the time. Hence, the population of the Chiatura Municipality has decreased by 42% for the past 24 years.

According to the data of the Social Services Agency, the number of families receiving social assistance in Chiatura is 3,636 (11,176 people). The share of the socially vulnerable population in the overall number of the population is 28.1% whilst the average percentage of socially vulnerable people throughout Georgia is 12.6%. With this indicator, Chiatura occupies the third place in the Imereti region after Kharagauli and Oni.

Malkhaz Tsereteli also refers to ecological problems in the Chiatura Municipality. According to the official data of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia, the damage done to the environment in the Chiatura Municipality in 2013 equalled GEL 2,246,955 whilst in 2014 this increased to GEL 355,148,337. In 2013, the Chiatura Municipality was responsible for 35% of the damage done to the environment throughout Georgia whilst in 2014 this indicator increased sharply to 89%. FactCheck worked on this issue earlier as well (see our article). Drinking water is also a serious problem for the population of the Chiatura Municipality. The locals say that their water supply is contaminated and one can plainly see this without any tests (see our report

on this issue in Georgian).

As for the field of healthcare, this is also problematic in Chiatura. A Geo-Hospital multi-profile medical centre and ambulatory centre are functioning in Chiatura. The centre has surgery, infection, therapy, gynaecology, anti-rabies, laboratory, x-ray and ultrasound departments. However, this medical centre mainly works on emergency cases. In addition, the medical centre has only 25 beds whilst the population of Chiatura is 39,900 people.

FactCheck

interviewed the Head of the Quality Management Department of the Chiatura medical centre, Doctor Zurab Loladze. According to him, theirs is a multi-profile emergency healthcare centre and is mainly focused on emergency cases. Invited doctors also do some planned surgeries at the centre (abdominal operations, cataract operations and gynaecological operations).

However, as we found out during our interview, even in emergency cases patients are not able to receive all types of medical services. This includes, for example, neurosurgery or interventional cardiologic help. “In the cases of an infarction, we are able to treat patients to a certain degree but if a patient needs stenting or shunting, we can only send them to other clinics.”

In addition to this, 3,700 employees working in the Chiatura mines who have special insurance policies receive their medical help at the Peromedi medical centre in Zestaponi. They can only get medical help in Chiatura in the case of an emergency.

The acting Majoritarian MP of Chiatura, Malkhaz Tsereteli, is currently also a Majoritarian MP candidate (from the Republican party) in the 2016 Parliamentary elections of Georgia. It is true that he knows the problems in the municipality quite well; however, it is interesting to see what he has done for the past four years to actually help the municipality’s population and what he is promising to do in the future.

In his interview with FactCheck,

Malkhaz Tsereteli stated: “My pre-election promise is to fight for the resolution of all of the problems for which I was fighting before. The timing of the resolution of these problems depends solely upon the proper and intensive functioning of the central government as well as that of the legislative structure. I am continuing my active engagement in the legislative package for environmental protection which is being developed by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia.”

According to Malkhaz Tsereteli, he has been asking the Government of Georgia for the past two years to create a complex commission which would put forward a plan for saving and developing the Chiatura Municipality.

“I have sent my proposal for the changes to the Labour Code of Georgia in order for it to serve the interests of miners as well. I addressed the President of Georgia three times to declare parts of the municipality a zone of ecological catastrophe and I am still waiting for answers to this question. I have been cooperating with the Pensions Provision Department with a proposal being presented for lowering the pension age for those engaged in hard labour together with a different type of co-funding by the employer in the retirement savings system and much more. I have sent a request to the Ministry of Finance of Georgia to include the 2007-2013 compensation for pension regressions in the 2017 State Budget of Georgia,” said the MP in his interview with FactCheck.

Conclusion

Malkhaz Tsereteli correctly points out the main problems facing the Chiatura Municipality. According to the data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the municipality’s population has decreased by 42% in the past 24 years. About 28% of the municipality’s population is socially vulnerable and with this indicator, Chiatura holds the third place in the Imereti region. The extreme poverty indicator for the Chiatura Municipality is twice as much as the national average.

Chiatura was responsible for about 35% of the damage done to the environment of Georgia in 2013 and for about 89% of the damage in 2014. The damage done to the environment in Chiatura in 2013 and 2014 exceeded GEL 357 million.

The quality of drinking water is still a big issue for the population of Chiatura. The locals point out that their water supply is contaminated.

In addition to this, the population of Chiatura can only get emergency or ambulatory healthcare in their own municipality and even in emergency cases patients cannot get all of the types of services that might be necessary.

Hence, FactCheck concludes that Malkhaz Tsereteli’s statement is TRUE.