Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi, was hit by a devastating flood from June 13 to 14, 2015. The River Vere breached its banks when it could not cope with the torrential rains that battered the city.
The waters inundated the roads and homes, swept away cars, and smashed open the zoo, releasing wild animals into the city.
The catastrophe claimed at least 19 lives, left three people missing, displaced 67 families, and directly affected 700 people. The economic cost of the loss and damages amounted to around US$29 million.
The initial wave of devastation that swept over residents confronted by the sudden adversity was quickly replaced by a sense of solidarity and pride that pushed residents to work together to recover their city. The UNDP writes, “Residents from all walks of life stand literally shoulder to shoulder, willing their city back to life in an impressive show of civic activism.”
The 2015 catastrophe has also served as a wake-up call to Georgia’s authorities and communities. It has prompted them to re-evaluate their flood preparedness and the need to prevent future disasters, especially in the face of climate change, projected to bring more extreme and frequent extreme weather events.
Another UNDP article says that the country’s attention has focused on “bolstering protective infrastructure – constructing flood defences, improving drainage systems, and bolstering coastal protection measures – but also to putting in place comprehensive policies focused on disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation, ensuring more sustainable land-use, and the mainstreaming of climate change considerations across development planning.”
Through partnerships with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Green Climate, and two European governments, Switzerland and Sweden, the Georgian government has implemented a 7-year programme worth $74 million dedicated to reducing the risk of climate-driven disasters in Georgia. The initiative comprises three interrelated projects:
- Scaling-up Multi-Hazard Early Warning System and the Use of Climate Information in Georgia with USD 27 million funding from the Green Climate Fund (GCF);
- Strengthening the Climate Adaptation Capacities in Georgia with USD 5 million in funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC); and,
- Improved Resilience of Communities to Climate Risks with USD 4 million in funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
The programme is co-financed by the Government of Georgia with USD 38 million.
According to UNDP, the programme is halfway through the 7-year agenda (2018 – 2025), and much has already been achieved.
Georgia’s implementation of its climate adaptation strategies and climate resilience programme should serve as an example to climate-vulnerable countries to manage their crisis more effectively and protect vulnerable communities from the increasing impacts and frequency of extreme events.
Channelling a Safer Future. How Georgia is engineering a climate-resilient future, safe from floods (2023, August 17). UNDP. Retrieved from https://undp-climate.exposure.co/channelling-a-safer-future
Reducing the Risk of Climate Driven Disasters in Georgia. (2023). UNDP. Retrieved from https://www.undp.org/georgia/projects/climate-change-disasters
Aftermath in Tbisli: Wading through the facts. (2015, June 22). UNPD. Retrieved from https://undpeurasia.medium.com/aftermath-in-tbilisi-wading-through-the-facts-11fa8d181e9b