The Network has also increased national capacity for management and development, “including the institutional capacity of the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia as well as national expertise in habitat classification, species and habitat assessments and reporting to the Bern Convention,” Artsivadze says.
The Ministry also reports benefits: “Many species and habitats were added to the already existing sites, and an additional seven sites were proposed to the Bern Convention for inclusion in the list of Emerald Network sites. All of the above significantly changes the insufficiency statuses for many species and habitats,” claims Amirgulashvili. “And at this moment Georgia is working on the draft law on Biodiversity, which envisages the requirements of the Bern Convention and issues of management of Emerald Network sites,” he adds.
Of course, controversial plans for developing energy and infrastructure haven’t disappeared overnight. In the last few years, discussions have been ongoing regarding a notorious mountain road project in the High Caucasus, which would allegedly attract tourism to remote areas.
Many locals remain unconvinced, as this road would cut through pristine mountain and forest landscapes (including several Emerald sites), potentially harming wildlife and the emerging adventure tourism industry. But citizens have a channel of appeal, through the Bern Convention: they have the voice that nature lacks.