10. Recreational zones without a status, privatized plots inside them and ongoing constructions
Being actively assisted by the developer City Hall on one hand and choked in the concrete jungle on the other hand, the citizens have been engaged in a desperate battle for already several years. The Tbilisi City Hall is actively continuing to pursue vacant places remaining from Soviet general planning of the city. All such areas in the center of Tbilisi and especially suburbs are looked upon as construction sites.
Due to the absence of a general plan, the right remains to construct high-rise buildings on all empty plots. Slowly but steadily, Tbilisi is turning into a typical Chinese block, stuffed in ugly buildings, where hopes about clean urban environment die instantly.
That’s why it is important to define the status of recreation zones in Tbilisi (especially in the suburbs), abolish privatized plots and prohibit construction.
Hereby are the photos from Varazi Valley to demonstrate how easily the City Hall can issue a permit so that a developer can construct in the city centre.
9. Issuing permits for high-rise building construction in all possible plots, without the existence of a city general plan
If Tbilisi had a nickname, it would be “blockhead”. It is no secret that this field represents the most profitable business and accordingly, multi-storey buildings are built everywhere.
The City Hall, obviously, totally supports all major developer initiatives. It does not bother to take seriously the issue of completing the general plan correctly and professionally. Meanwhile, Tbilisi started to resemble a museum of ugly buildings. Our capital, owning a praiseworthy history is a very good example of how the local government can manage to turn an urban plan of such a historical city into a complete mass, as well as make profit out of it.
All this happens when the city does not actually have a general plan. We are unaware of which direction it is developing in, currently everywhere in Tbilisi “building plotsare for sale with construction permit”.
8. Market planning, appearance, anti-sanitation, outdoor trade
The issue of markets is one of the most painful for the present Tbilisi. We have a rich historical material, what kind of markets were in the old Tbilisi and this integral part of the city should now be on a higher stage of development, with colorful goods exhibited on beautiful stalls and other wide range of materials, alas, everything is vice versa. At present, Tbilisi market is the place, associated with anti-sanitation, chaos, stress, bad smell, mud in rainy weather and dust in windy conditions.
Nodar Dumbadze writes: “Have you seen Navtlugi market in the summer? This is hell as we call it”, and nothing has changed since then. On the contrary, old Soviet structures are already dilapidated, electrical and water systems are amortized, smells and anti-sanitation have doubled.
The markets in Tbilisi do not have any regulation that will actually fit the customers’ and sellers’demands and so, outdoor trade will not be a necessity. There is no specific plan of development of markets and if there are any attempts to change the situation with this regard, they are unproductive and serve more for providing a single account to a specific office. Managing Tbilisi markets is not on the agenda the way that for instance, providing private cars and bonuses to the City Hall officials is.
7. Dusty and dirty streets that are not washed
What a dusty city is Tbilisi? – In the morning, when you wipe away the dust at home, in the evening you encounter the very same situation. There is dust everywhere – in the streets, houses, cars… whatever reason this might have, the City Hall should care about it and should have designed a plan to get rid of dust and dirt on sidewalks and this should not concern only Rustaveli Avenue. Now the streets are not washed, are not cleaned from dust and are not taken care of properly.
One small breeze is enough to turn Tbilisi roads into a desert, where seeing and breathing are both hard and what is the most disappointing is that we got used to it, everyday life involves avoiding cars being parked on the pavement or those emitting black exhaust fumes. The City Hall washed the streets with a “special solution” several times and thus completed its mission. However, Tbilisi is much bigger, there are more streets and they need to be cleaned up more regularly. The population of Tbilisi doesn’t deserve to breathe such dusty air!
6. Crisis of drainage system in the city
The Head of “Tbilisi City Hall Dust Service” will read the 7th paragraph and say “If I wash the streets, where can I take this much water?” and he will be right. One shower is enough for Tbilisi to be full of river-like streamswhile the puddles instantly turn into lakes. During heavier rain, the traffic in the city is paralyzed: water flows from all sides, this is added to the water from drainage pipes (sometimes even from the 2nd floor), which practically makes it impossible for the pedestrians to move, while the traffic is brought to a standstill. To cut It short, during rainy weather every street of Tbilisi looks like a big inflatable swimming pool.
The roads are built so that they do not have even one drainage, the already existing one or two drainages do not help the situation, which we obviously encounter after each rain. Making a plan of a new drainage system and its implementation looks like a distant future: Tbilisi, year 2154. There is a strong rain in Tbilisi, but the trafficis uninterrupted. Yes, sure.
Meanwhile, let’s watch videos illustrating flooded streets. They are actively shared over the internet after each rain and represent affair enough entertainment.
5. Non-existence of parking in residential zones
I can’t say exactly, but most probably 100% of old buildings in Tbilisi and 80% of the new “beauties” are planned and built in a way that nobody has even thought about parking. Respectively, if you live on the first floor and your windows are directly on the ground level, there is a big possibility that in the morning you will be awakened by the exhaust fumes of that car, which your neighbor parked in front of your window at night. For some this is a detail, but for others this might define their mood throughout the day not to mention health.
The Tbilisi Yard with its beauty and structure is something which defines unique look and character of this city. A typical Tbilisi residence is a multi-flat building with its façade on the street, an arch leading to a yard and an entrance hall. Mainly there are wonderful tiles or mosaic on the floor, in a better case – painted ceiling and walls. In the yards, we encounter an absolutely different, street-free, warm environment. Green yard with glazed balconies and wooden décor, once a place for a friendly gathering of the neighbours, turned into a place for parking. How many trees were chopped down and flowers were rooted out for this purpose. It’s time to start a project which will rehabilitate Tbilisi yards, make parking outside the yards, in a specially designated place, near the building. Let’s return Tbilisi its authentic appearance, which our city long deserves.
4. Construction of highways for the purpose of unloading streets from excess traffic
Much has been written about this and I doubt even more will be, as in Tbilisi there is a higher interest of constructing roads from our favourite City Hall’s side. The most painful for the city was that road connecting Kolmeurneoba-Freedom squares. Asphalt was poured on that archaeological part of Tbilisi railing, where in the middle ages there was a room like customs office and numerous different types of coins were being paid to enter the city. Instead of researching and finding out some new facts about our capital, now we have a dusty nest and muddy hole, unlit at night, making it impossible to walk there. On the other hand, cars drive there actively. So, the City Hall is building roads in order to encourage already high number of cars to transport in the city. This happens instead of boosting public transport so that moving around Tbilisi is more convenient using a bus, underground and taxi.
At first glance it is absurd but a reality. While Norway completely prohibits cars in the city center, England bans cars running on diesel, we do not even have the basic compulsory technical inspection law, and it’s just because we would have to get rid of all public transportation from the system.
Tbilisi can not endure so many ridiculous decisions and inability from the ruling party, which in fact is oriented not towards the future, but that certain period, when they have to mobilize a number of votes. I am counting the days when all of this will ruin, one step is remaining before urban collapse.
3. Non-serious attitude towards public transport from the government’s side
Tbilisi has been experiencing a serious problem for several years already and this is air pollution, smell and dust everywhere. Walking in the street is almost impossible, for instance, in the direction of Kolmeurneoba-Freedom square it is an absolute catastrophe, and generally everywhere where there are two or more sideways and narrow sidewalks. A pedestrian is encompassed in dark exhaust fumes and especially if the weather is windy, Tbilisi resembles a desert where not only breathing but seeing is also difficult. One reason of this has been the increasing number of cars lately.
Cars represent one of the main causes of this problem, still the city government has not been quick to adopt the law of compulsory technical inspection for several years, which in the first place is needed for public transport.
Amortized yellow buses add up to even worse mini-buses. It is noteworthy that this company is privately owned and dares use these “fumigating” cars which are a nest of dirt and their coal-like fumes spread in the environment so naturally that they have become an integral part of everyday life and people have got used to them, nobody is surprised anymore. How many banners have been posted up, as if a movement for introducing technical inspection was starting, but nothing has changed. The company continues working in its own rhythm and the City Hall does not notice it, “eyes closed, as if sleeping”.
Rising number of machines and the problem of emissions is directly related to improper functioning of public transport and the government’s inadequate attitudetowards this issue. Obviously, introducing 40 blue buses will not resolve this problem, so the transport department should consider that maybe the priority is to make public transport more convenient, whether it is underground, buses or taxis, in that case there would not be such a big necessity from the population to use private cars. Who wants to travel in smelly and dirty buses/mini buses, when buying and using cars is so cheap.
2. Absence of pedestrian road (sidewalk, zebra)plans
In Tbilisi quite a lot of money from the budget is spent on traffic accessories (traffic lights, island etc), but never in the history of the city has anyone questioned general plan of pedestrian roads or traffic schemes.
In Tbilisi walking from A to B point is an uncertain route, you never know which obstacles you will encounter on your way and in what time you will reach the destination. Walking is a kind of adventure, full of unpleasant surprises – somewhere a car is parked, in another place building fences have occupied the whole pavement or maybe there is a kiosk or a stall, suddenly you will come across water straight from the drainage pipe and who knows how many more might be mentioned hereby.
There are no planned pedestrian roads connecting the streets in the city, based on which a pedestrian will have a route and pre-determined direction to reach the final destination. That’s why pedestrians cross the roads anywhere chaotically, which is dangerous for health and also hinders traffic, but in Tbilisi all the drivers and citizens seem to be adapted to similar actions, these processes have become everyday life of the city.
In order to prevent such chaotic street crossings, one “clever” department of the City Hall decided to install railings in the most crowded and problematic sections.
Even if we disregard their visual side and take Tamar King Avenue for example, we will find ourselves in a very awkward and funny situation.
Those who have not had a chance to walk there yet, I will briefly illustrate the situation: those railings start from the distance, where pedestrians initially do not really notice them. Then a difficulty arises when it is time to cross the street. There are traffic lights in front, so logically there should be a zebra crossing, but you will find a railing. You continue your way and are able to cross the street only father away from the traffic lights, without a zebra, among too many cars and their fumes. After that, again you encounter railings to continuewalkingon the pavement. The same happens on the roundabout of the same road and accordingly, crowds of people again move chaotically, in an even uncomfortable situation due to those silly railings. Either this is such a genius invention that ordinary mortals can not understand it without instructions, or the person who dealt with this, has never walked in this place, urbanism is not his profession, what else are we asking for…
To cut it short, I want to say that the way motorways are planned, pedestrian lanes should also be developed and city authorities should work in this direction along with professionals as soon as possible.
1. One word: Mtkvari
The biggest urban mistake that Tbilisi has ever made is ignoring river Mtkvari. Years pass in a way that the city does not even look at it, as if it does not exist. Sticky, smelly and muddy, lost between the dams, the so-called “Mother River” is absolutely forgotten and alienated from the city life. Potential of integrating it in the urban environment of the city is huge, but a will and project to transform it into recreation – 0.
Mtkvari – once a place for admired kintos and hawkers, water mills and hanging balconies, now resembles an abolished irrigation channel. So simply, such an enormous mass lies functionless.
We have a number of interesting relationships between a river and a city in the world. In the first case the rivers are actively cleaned and the whole city’s sewerage does not flow there.
The clean banks are used for pedestrian recreation, there are a number of trees, plans, flowers and a whole new eco system, where ducks, squirrels, insects and birds can be met. We have to somehow try to restore Tbilisi ecosystem. Animals and birds of Georgian fauna should return to our parks and squares.
We have to try and give Mtkvari a new life, with interesting spaces and banks.
Even if I had not numbered this article, it is already clear that Tbilisi has more than 10 problems and this list might continue infinitely. The reason is that our government does not resolve these problems and they add up and create a serious dilemma in the city. It seems that the authorities do not see the city from Kostava street they way we, citizens feel.
The government, which totally accommodates the wishes of the investors, will never be comfortable for its own population!
Author: Nanuka Zaalishvili
English Edit: Nutsa Namoradze