Georgian Black Sea coastal zone is subject to the impact of various geophysical processes. Some of them become more extensive as a result of climate changes. Within the region, Rioni River delta and the coastal zone are the most vulnerable systems in Georgia, with respect of climate changes. In the above-mentioned territory, floods are caused by natural or anthropogenic reasons, eustasies, storm floods and sedimentations and climate changes.
It should be noted that in the delta of Rioni River, 1.5-2.0 m below the river surface, one of the most significant seaports of Georgia, city of Poti with its outskirts and port, is located. Eustasy is most prominent in this area and the coastal zone drowns at the highest rate (h=0.56 per century). As a result, the water level increased after 1925 by 0.7 m. After 1920, as a result of storms and anthropogenic interventions (construction of dams), the sea has covered 3.5 km wide strip of the sea shore, most part of which was occupied by the hippodrome, housings and agricultural lands. At the time of spring floods, when the sea level increases by 0.2-0.25 m and carrying capacity of Rioni River bed decreases significantly, Poti is exposed to significant danger. According to statistical data, in 1987 and 1997, floods had caused losses worth $13 million, as well as deaths. On average, storm floods in this section increased by 60% and this is the highest figure for the Georgian section of Black Sea coastal zone Factual analysis established that floods are expected 5 times per century, which were not dangerous before 1930.They currently have become catastrophic and grow proportionally to the increase in eustasy. In the nearest future (2030-2050), in case of increase in the frequency of storms and increase in the relative eustasy by 0.2-0.3 m, the storm floods will cause catastrophic damages.
Geological structure and climatic characteristics of the region, in particular, precipitation and their seasonal distribution contribute to the activation of the geodynamic processes such as landslides, mudflows and seasonal erosion processes related to the high water in the rivers. It was established that 96 settlements of the region are exposed to the risk of dangerous geological processes and damage ratio (ratio of the damaged settlements to undamaged ones) is 0.2.
Regarding all the above-mentioned, effective preventive measures are required, like bank stabilization works, forestation of slopes, filling of the cracks, cleaning of river beds, etc. Integration of climate change issues into the development plans of various sectors is of great significance.
Though the region is adjacent to the trans-border water body of international significance, Black Sea, the regional administration, self-governing units and the population of region are not involved in the environmental activities dealing with Black Sea. Planning and implementation of the environmental programs and projects by international organizations, funds and donor countries, traditionally took place with the recommendations and coordination by the central government only. At the regional and municipal levels, environmental activities were not actually designed. Environmental activities in Samegrelo - Zemo Svaneti region mostly deal with the management of the water resources (Rioni River), protected territories (Kolkheti National Park) and territories vulnerable to climate changes (Black Sea coastal zone).
Improvement of public awareness in climate change issues was not provided for as well. Active involvement of the region in trans-border measures for water resources management would undoubtedly contribute to effective environment protection in the region. It should be noted that for the implementation of projects and programs for the adaptation of social, economic and environmental systems to negative impact of climate changes, Georgia has the opportunity of receiving wide-scale financial and technological assistance from the international donor organizations. Making the best use of this opportunity and development of relevant projects is of great significance for the region.
Sections of the protected territory of international significance, Kolkheti National Park, comprise the parts of two historical regions, Samegrelo and Guria. Kolkheti National Park (total area: 44,599.8 hectares) includes eastern coastal zone of Black Sea and basin of Paliastomi Lake. The Park is created for the purpose of protection and saving of Kolkheti wetland ecosystem of international significance. 67% of the Park’s area is located in the territory of Samegrelo - Zemo Svaneti region. Kolkheti marshes are very significant for their relict origin. Phytocenosis complexes rich with the relict and endemic varieties were maintained up to present. Two species – sea poppy and Pancratium maritium – are included in the red book as endangered species. It should be noted that there are 194 species of e birds in the Park territory. The Park is crossed by the annual migration routes of numerous birds and hence it is possible to observe many rare birds.
Katsobuti Reserve was established in the region in 1996, with a total area of 295 hectares. The territory of the Reserve is mostly plain, with no more than 40 m altitude above the sea level. The extremely changed remains of the Kolkhetian forests are maintained in this Reserve. Among several species of birds that live in this Reserve, population of Kolkhetian pheasants should be noted.
Zemo Svaneti protected area was included into the protected territories of Central Caucasus Plan. The protected territory is represented with Zemo Svaneti National Park. It covers the territory of Mestia Municipality and is located within 600-2500 m above sea level. Among the flora of Zemo Svaneti National Park, 212 species are endemic to the Caucasus; Georgian endemic species-52; and 9 species are endemic to Svaneti. Some birds are included in the Red List of Georgia. Adishi Glacier, and “Perkhulis Kva”,one of the largest old glacier boulders, which are distinguished for their geo-morphological and glacial characteristics are located in the Svaneti National Park.