Once a fresh water lake with diverse plant, fish and wildlife, the cutting of a channel to the Sea (in 1924, widened substantially by storm surge in 1933) in order to reduce flooding in Poti has drastically altered the hydrological balance and productivity of the lake as salinity increased from 2 ppt to 12 ppt. The flow rates through the former natural outlet of the lake, river Kaparchina has been reduced dramatically and the outlet filled. Although the cutting of the channel is the significant factor, contributing to the loss of economically important freshwater fishery, some others seem also important in terms of negative impacts. Most frequently mentioned are over-fishing and poaching, peat and sapropel extraction activities and water pollution from toxins of decaying unexcavated peat layers, proximity to major urban areas of Poti, drainage of wetlands and run-offs from upstream agricultural activities. There is a danger of additional, this time irreversible changes to the lake's ecosystem, as deprived economic conditions in the region may stimulate irregular and unsustainable uses of the lake's natural resources. Instead of conducting the feasibility study for the development of engineering solution for the channel, connecting the Paliastomi lake to the Sea (as was initially planned within the ICZM program), preference has been given to the application of ICZM-type scheme to manage the Lake and its surroundings with reference to the transitional location of Paliastomi, and taking into account both land-ward (linkages with adjacent Kolkheti wetland complex in light of sensitive impacts and actions from upstream areas and multiple impacts from neighboring Poti urban areas), as well as sea-side (sea-channel water exchange, flooding and storm surges and other coastal and marine issues) influences.
The long-term goal of the exercise is to achieve the sustainable management of the lake's natural resources, restoration and maintenance of high level of biodiversity. Objectives of the program is to develop ICZM framework for the Lake, which, among others, includes the generation of background information, issues analysis, identification of most appropriate institutional arrangements for the management of this coastal zone unit. Consultants implementing the program will attempt to set up the local advisory body with sufficient powers to resolve conflicts, review projects and control development, foster integration among different interests and users of lake's resources, incorporate public consultation and participation in decision-making.
The study should support and complement the approaches developed within the Protected Area Management Guidelines (WWF-Georgia) and, in addition, serve as an example of the regional unit approach in managing the coastal areas of the country. If successful, the experience of the program could be shared and spread to other regions of the country, thus building the coastal environmental management framework from bottom to top.