Illegal Timber Market
Before Independence in 1991, most of the wood used/processed in Georgia was imported from Russia; around 2 million m3 annually, mostly coniferous roundwood and mainly for construction and pulp production. This trade became largely uneconomical after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and it was almost entirely phased out, with the main effect that the Georgian processing enterprises practically stopped to operate. From a level of forest harvesting of around 500,000 m3 per year during the period 1990-91, only about 400,000 m3 were officially harvested in 1997. For the time being, apart from some illegal exports (mainly logs), there are small - but growing - volumes of wood exported, mainly to Turkey. Some are directly related to the foreign financing of the few sawmills recently privatised and operating. On the other hand, the importation of forestry products is negligible.
Given the topographic relief and the heavy rainfalls (from 1,000 to 4,000 mm/year except in the eastern and south-eastern parts), the role of the forests for soil and water conservation is crucial. Soil degradation/erosion is a serious problem in Georgia although very little information is available on the specific causes as well as the effects in quantifiable terms. About 200,000 ha of forest areas are reportedly degraded of which some 70% consist of coppice forests (oak and beech) that have been harvested for fuel wood and local construction wood, in addition to the widespread problem of overgrazing by livestock. Moreover, it is estimated that a backlog of 31,600 ha is in urgent need of afforestation. The damages are particularly serious in the locations close to population centres that are also often where agricultural lands can be found. According to the official data, the eight provinces around Tbilisi (Bolnisi, Dusheti, Kaspi, Marneuli, Mtkheta, Sagarejo, Samgori and Tbilisi) would be the most severely affected.
© UNEP/GRID-Tbilisi, 2000
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Last Updated: 24/02/2000