Georgia: Wildfires started by military operation affect a nature reserve and forests in Georgia
20 August 2008
Latest UNOSAT maps illustrate (1) satellite-detected active fire locations near the town of Tskhinvali, South Ossetia, Georgia, during the armed conflict between Georgian and Russian military forces. These fire locations were detected by the MODIS Aqua and Terra satellites covering the time period from 7 to 16 August 2008, and are sorted by date of detection. An assessment has been made of the chronology and spatial context of this data, and it is highly probable that such detected fires are directly or indirectly linked to the armed conflict.Please note this fire data product does not discriminate between natural fires (e.g. forest fire) and those resulting from arson or conflict, and has not been independently verified on the ground. Also note this product has not recorded all fires in this area because of limited duration, area affected or dense cloud cover, and thus does not represent all potential damage areas.
The second map below (2) shows an active fire (smoke plumes) and a fire scar nearby Borjomi National Park on 15 and 17 August 2008 respectively.
UNEP, UNEP-OCHA, OSCE and GFMC are monitoring the situation.
New “weapon” Against Georgia – Forest Fires.
NACRES Appeal to the International Community
16 August 2008
In addition to killing civilians, attacking and destroying both military and civilian infrastructures the Russian military are now trying to cause an ecological disaster in Georgia.
According to eyewitnesses Russian military helicopters around 12.30 p.m. 15th August dropped some sort of flammable substances into the Borjomi forests in a mountainous central part of the country that is internationally recognised as having a great significance to the global biodiversity. The area has one of the most popular spa and ski resorts of the former Soviet Union and is famous for its mineral waters. Most importantly the site is located at least 100 km away from the South Ossetia conflict zone.
A Borjomi national park official told us this afternoon that fires simultaneously broke out in multiple spots in and around the Borjomi national park shortly after Russian military helicopters were seen flying over the area. The park administration has managed to contain all seats of fire within the national park. But elsewhere in the area and especially near village Tsemi, fires are burning out of control. Several hundreds of hectares of precious forest have already been destroyed and fires are now approaching human settlements.
While Georgian authorities and volunteers try their best to contain forest fires, we urge international community and especially environmental groups and conservation organizations (especially those based in Russia) to call upon the Russia’s Government to immediately stop this and other inhumane actions in and against Georgia.
Note: NACRES is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization, founded in 1989. Its mission is to safeguard the biodiversity of Georgia and the South Caucasus, through conservation activities at national and local levels, based on sound science, sustainability principles and local participation. In 2004, NACRES requested assistance from Fauna & Flora International to train its staff and support their institutional development. NACRES website:
Statement of the Ministry of Environment Protection and Natural Resources of Georgia,
18 August 2008
To all Foreign Diplomatic Representations in Georgia
To PAN Parks Organization
To the World Bank
To the GEF
To IUCN International
To WWF International
The Ministry of Environment Protection and Natural Resources of Georgia urgently tries to attract the attention of all relevant international organizations to the dramatic situation created in Georgia with regard to the forest burning in several regions of the country as a result of Russian bombing, particularly in Borjomi region, where unique forests are burning creating danger also to Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park which is situated in immediate proximity to these forests.
On August 15, after the attack of Russian military forces’ helicopters, fire started in the Borjomi region forests affecting some part of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park. Since Saturday (August 16) we have been trying to put out the fire in Borjomi region forests, but almost 200 ha of unique forest is already burnt. The aim was to create an ecological catastrophe in the country.
All local recourses: fire brigades, Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park stuff, Environment Inspectorate and local communities are involved in putting out the fire. The situation is quite dramatic since fire has caused great losses in biodiversity.
Since the morning of the eighteenth of August fire fighting aircraft from Turkey are already assisting to put out the fire. While the Ukraine and Azerbaijan, both are ready to do the same. Fire engines and fire brigades from Tbilisi are ready to enter the region, but highway from the capital of Georgia to Gori-Borjomi direction is under the Russian military forces control.
To avoid ecological catastrophe in the region we are calling all interested organizations’ attention to react to the situation in Borjomi region.
The Ministry is asking for your help to convince Russian to open air and terrestrial corridor, which would let fire fighting aircraft, fire engines and fire brigades enter the Borjomi District and make possible putting out the fire there.