Dazmir Nichbiani is 70 years old. His house in the village of Kheria in the mountains of northwest Georgia is located on the northern side of the Tskhenistskali River.
He lives with his wife and 27-year-old son, who has health problems. They are the only ones currently living on that side of the river. The bridge that would connect them with the village of Lemzagori and the rest of Georgia is only half-built. The roadbed isn’t finished and a support pillar has already cracked.
His nephew Boris Ninchbiani stood on the southern side of the river. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight — they are all abandoned,” he said of the houses on the other side. “Only the one house with the red roof, where my uncle’s family lives.”
“Over there is firewood and fields for growing grass and food, but we can’t get there.”
There hasn’t been a good bridge since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Villagers rigged up a walking bridge or else just waded across the river.
“All winter we were trapped here,” said Nichbiani’s wife, walking out onto the new bridge as far as possible so she could talk. “No one in government was interested. All winter we were eating only potatoes.
“We made some stairs, but they were not safe. I lost four teeth when I fell down.”
In October of 2017, the Lentekhi region municipal government announced a tender to renovate this bridge. Work started in December. Due to bad weather conditions, the TU-KA Limited company stopped work. The tender was for about $US26,700. The government has already paid about $17,500.
Company director Omar Totadze blamed bad winter weather. The local government said work would begin again on April 1. iFact.ge visited on April 3, but nobody was working. Villagers said work was abandoned months ago.
Lentekhi region mayor Badri Liparteliani promised on April 3 that Dazmir Nichbiani’s family would be able to cross the bridge and visit their family cemetery for Easter on April 8. The road still isn’t finished.
Totadze said project plans were changed. “The pillar problem issue was raised, design changes were made, and more concrete was needed. That took a couple weeks. In April we took that concrete to the bridge, but we could not pour it because we did not have the forms ready.
We did not haul this concrete (about 90 kilometers ) back to Kutaisi. We just dumped it there. I lost about $290. And every day we are late finishing, the fine is about $5.50.”
The project design was created by Kutaisi-based company “Architect LTD” and they made the changes. Architect LTD head Koba Chighladze said the local government changed project details without signing any new agreement. According to Chighladze’s plan, the height of the pillars should have been 1.5 meters. The local government’s supervision department decided they should be 2.5 meters. When construction began, water quickly filled the holes dug for the pillars and pouring concrete was impossible.
On April 30, Lentekhi mayor Liparteliani blamed the delay on Architect LTD, saying the design documents were inadequate. But back on August 24, 2017, the Lentekhi government signed a document approving Chigladze’s plan.
Renovation awaits approval of the adjusted design. Liparteliani believes this is a temporary solution and that a better bridge will be built in the future. But he says it would cost the local government hundreds of thousands of dollars to do it.