Back

Tbilisi residents affected by power plant pollution win landmark case

Jugheli and others v. Georgia |2017

Tbilisi residents affected by power plant pollution win landmark case

To live in a safe environment is a crucial precondition for a person to freely enjoy their life.

Spokesperson for Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), whose lawyers, together with those of the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), represented the applicants

Background 

Residents of an apartment block in central Tbilisi began to complain to the local authorities about toxic fumes from a thermal power plant just metres from their homes. 

Ivane Jugheli, Otar Gureshidze, and Liana Alavidze were among those harmed by the plant’s activities, which were not then subject to environmental rules.

Tbilisi City Hall told the plant to install chimney filters to reduce air pollution – but the request was ignored. 

Residents decided to take legal action against the plant and the authorities, claiming compensation for the harm caused to their health and well-being.

Experts commissioned by a Tbilisi court to assess the environmental pollution caused by the plant discovered that a “whole bouquet of emissions” was reaching residents’ homes. 

There was no buffer zone between the plant and the apartment block. The lack of chimney filters increased the risk to residents, who were found to be suffering from similar health complaints. Doctors thought their illnesses could have been caused by the fumes. 

The Georgian courts were not satisfied with this evidence, and Ivane, Otar, and Liana’s claims were dismissed. 

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court found that the lack of environmental rules meant the power plant could carry out potentially dangerous activities without necessary safeguards to avoid or reduce the air pollution and its impact on Otar and Liana’s health and well-being. 

This, together with the Georgian Government’s “passive attitude” to the pollution coming from the plant, breached their rights. 

Ivane Jugheli sadly passed away in 2016, before the European court issued its judgment. 

. . . such dangerous industrial activities were effectively left in a legal vacuum at the material time.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, July 2017

Follow-up 

After the European court judgment, Georgia took steps to improve environmental protections, including by changing the law: 

  • A 2017 amendment to the Law on Environmental Protection introduced the need for an environmental assessment and set out the relevant procedure. 
  • An Environmental Assessment Code was also adopted in 2017, which requires both private and public bodies to carry out environmental impact assessments for relevant activities and projects. The new code allows for public access to relevant information, involvement in decision-making and regular public reviews. 
  • New rules on air quality standards were introduced in 2018.

The Georgian Government confirmed that the power plant is no longer in operation.