The University of Arizona

Towards a Political Ecology of Oil in Post-communist Georgia: the conflict over the Kulevi Oil Port Development

Maia Gachechiladze, Chad Staddon


Since 1998 the growing importance of the Caspian Sea's oil reserves for the international markets has put a new pressure on Georgia's energy transit capacities. One of the new transit facilities – the Kulevi Oil Terminal located on the country's ecologically-sensitive central Black Sea coast - has emerged as a controversial development evoking several cross-cutting environmental policy, economic and political conflicts at the international, national, and local levels. This paper explores and tracks the nature of this multi-level environmental conflict over land-use and reveals it to be a complex product of the interplay between social, political and economic power. From a political ecological perspective it is possible to interpret the controversy over Kulevi as a 'regional' conflict of interests between different land managers. Our analysis discloses the links between these conflicts and their triggers at different spatial scales with a view to articulating an emerging political ecology of oil for Georgia and the Caucasus. The paper reflects on how the threat of economic loss has forced environmentally unfriendly decisions in the region, causing internal problems and a derogation of the reputation of Georgia at the international arena. Several suggestions for resolution are offered, but their success depends on the contribution of the main players in the conflicts and their commitment to fulfill their obligations.

Keywords: Georgia, Oil, Kulevi, Political Ecology

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