Twelve cases of illegal logging were revealed by Georgia’s Environmental Supervision Department on 1 August, 10 in Kakheti and two in Samtskhe-Javakheti.
In a statement, the department said that people had been caught transporting illegally cut wood from hornbeam, beech, and oak trees in Lagodekhi, Gurjaani, Telavi and Sagarejo municipalities in Kakheti and Borjomi and the village of Uraveli in South Georgia.
The department, operating under the Ministry of Environment, has passed the cases on to the courts.
If convicted of transporting wood without proper documentation, offenders first receive a warning, followed by a ₾500 ($200) fine for repeat offences.
According to a report from the Ministry of Environment, 866 cases of environmental damage were identified in June; 815 were classified as administrative and 51 as criminal offenses. Of these, 16% were for illegal logging, and 9% for illegal transportation of timber.
For the whole of 2016, the ministry identified over 10,000 cases of environmental damage; 2,800 of these were related to illegal logging and transportation of timber.
Environmental activist Temur Vekua told Georgian newspaper Rezonansi that forest cover in Georgia has decreased by 25% over the last 25 years.
Rusiko Simonidze, from the Greens Movement of Georgia, told the paper that the forests lost cannot be restored, as the massive amounts of trees cut down over the past 20–30 years were not replaced.
‘The situation is really grave and the state doesn’t deny this. There are some efforts to improve it, but even the greatest efforts won’t be enough, this is how great is the loss is’, she says.
According to a report conducted by Global Forest Watch, around 9,000 hectares of trees were cut down in Georgia from 2001–2015. In the same time period Azerbaijan lost around 7,000 hectares and Armenia 2,000 hectares of forest.