Fishing licence on the Tabatskuri Lake is sold. Since fishing rights on the Lake was lost, residents' life became more difficult.
Tabatskuri Lake is a high alpine lake that is one of the deepest and most beautiful in the Republic of Georgia. Lake is located between Borjomi and Akhalkalaki districts In Samtskhe-Javakheti region on the sea level of 1991m (surface 14.2km²). It’s of vulcanic origin, with a maximum depth of up to 40.2 m (average 15.6 m). There is also see small island in the Lake.
Lifestyle of Tabatskuri population
Tabatskuri is populated by ethnic Armenians. There live less than 180 families. The village is empty, there is no any entertainment for children. In the village is only one Armenian school, 5 Churchs, from these two Orthodox. Village has not doctor, that’s why population is force to go in Borjomi municipality and it cause additional problems.
Hardship in Tabatskuri
Residents try to survive with agriculture and livestock. Almost every family has goods . Their every morning starts with milking of goods and sheep. Life of women and men is the same in this village. They make their living by farming, growing potato, and some fishing which is restricted.
Why was the lake sold and who is its owner?
In the fall of 2010, the villagers learned that they could not going fishing in the lake because the fishing license had been auctioned by the Ministry of Economy. Tbebi LLC was the only company that participated in the auction. It paid only 1832 GEL for the right to fish for 20 years. Owner of Tbebi is Vardan Ayvazyan who grew up in Tabatskuri.
Ayvazyan is a well known politician. He is member of the Armenian Parliament, from 2001-2007 he served as that country's Minister of Environmental Protection. He began establishing a fish farming business. It’s well-known that Georgian government support for his business. As villagers say, Vardan Ayvazyan and former chief of Ministry of Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili were friends and he helped him.
Besides, Vardan Ayvazyan violated all conditions of license. According to the license, Tbebi LLC was prohibited from stocking any species of fish in the lake without the approval of the Ministry of Environment. But the company shipped huge quantities of crawfish from Lake Sevan in Armenia and and 18 tons of crawfish put into Tabatskuri Lake.
According to the villagers, after crawfish were put in the lake, the number of fish declined. Before there were 13 species fishes but now 80% of them are destroyed.
Lost traditional livelihood
Fishing was only one main source of income for them. Some of residents have continued to fish in the lake illegally, but guard hired by the company started to cut their boats.
After fishing became restricted, villagers lost main livelihood. Residents of Tabatskuri have lost their traditional livelihood. Local men started to migrate abroad. It is estimated that 80% of the able men have moved to Russia in order to find work. The locals claim that after their resource lost, the economic situation has deteriorated sharply. Tabatskuri residents demand from the central government to renew the license and permit fishing.
Two villages - Tabatskuri and Moliti profit by this lake. It was only one source of income for more than 300 families. Winter starts in early October and lasts until May and it is impossible to survive with agricultural field. Villagers grow potatoes and raise livestock, but fishing is vital to the residents. If the problem is not solved residents are forced to leave the village.
"Nobody asks we are alive or not"
Ashot Iriciani lives in Tabatskuri. He is 47 years old. He has 21 years old daughter, Anait and two sons. Gevorg is 25 years old and Andraik is 28 years old. Last one works in Russia already 2 years. Ashot Irician is one of the local, who has difficult life. His every morning begins at 6:00AM. Ashot and his wife milks cows and sheep.
Except for the livestock, Ashot has land, where he grows potatoes, carrots and stuff like that. But Ashot says that it s not enough to save family. AS he says, only fishing was main income. He worries about the restricted fishing and says that Tavatskuri is ownerless village.
“Living in Tabatskuri is very hard. There are not any jobs. We have our income from cattle. We had normal income when we were fishing. But after the ban on fishing, our life became complicated. We grow potatoes, beets, carrots, beans and something like this, but It is impossible to stay on the hope of harvesting because of long winter“.
Besides prohibited fishing, they have many other problems. According to Ashot, the gas fee is the highest in Tabatskuri.
“The whole village should go from here. We do not present anything here. Nobody will ask you to hear whether we are alive or not. Tatars have more rights than we have. We are treated unfairly. nowhere is such a high gas fee as here. We pay 65 tetri. Now I have not pension, no job, I do not know how I can pay gas or electricity. Winter lasts 7 months here and we are not on the hope of harvesting. It is difficult to keep the goods in the winter. The only income was our fish. We rarely dare to enter in lake and we'll get 1-2 kilos. Last year when I went in lake, guards of Ayvazyan cut my boat", said Ashot.
Marusia oganisiani is 51 years old. She is form Samtskhe-javakheti and she has been married for 20 years in Tabatskiri. Marusia has 3 children and 2 grandchildren. Her oldest son left village and went to Russia for working.
Marie's life is different from other women's. She wakes up every morning very early, she works whole day. Marusia cares with goods, she milks cows and sheep every morning and evening. She has a vegetable garden where she grows the potatoes, onions, and other products.
According to Marusia, women's everyday life is particularly hard in Tabarskuri. Usually, men have seasonal work outside of our country, especially in Armenia and Russia. Because of that women have to work such hard work at home.
Mari says that life has always been difficult in Tabatskuri but after ristrected on fishing has become worse. She helps her husband, Varuja Iriciani. But, he is a sick man and Marusia has to do a major job.