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Brosse Street Journal » Business and Economy:

Shedding light on Tbilisi at night

By By Malika Rakhmanova
Brosse Street Journal
Tuesday, September 12 2006
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Near Tbilisi concert hall
Near Tbilisi concert hall
On a rainy evening, one sees the silhouettes of a woman holding a little girl's hand as they stumble along a dark Tbilisi street. The light from windows in houses weakly light their path, while up on a hill is an illuminated TV tower which can be seen from every part of Tbilisi since it was lit at the end of December, 2005.

Leila Tsiskarishvili, a housewife from Varketili district, said that it is impossible to walk after 9 pm because it is too dark around the streets near her house.

The Tbilisi TV-tower consumes about 140 kilowatts per hour. About 1000 lamps illuminate it the whole night and to provide it with electricity costs 16 lari ($9 U.S.) per night, according to Avto Megvinetukhutsesi, manager of the tower illumination project.

Before the Rose Revolution of 2003, only about 25 percent of Tbilisi's streets were lit.

"I remember when my friend was driving through the dark streets and went into a pit full of water. There were no signs or borders near it. He couldn't get the car out of the pit and came back home wet and angry," said Tbilisi student Kote Shubitidze.

In 2002, 3.8 million lari (more than $2 million) were allocated by the city administration for the street light system. In 2003 and 2004, 6 million lari (more than $3 million) was allocated.

According to Temur Udzilauri, Deputy Chief of Service in the Tbilisi Municipal Improvements Service, about 60 percent of the streetlights has been repaired. Last year more than 12.55 million lari ($7 million) was allocated for lighting the streets, according to Maka Gabunia, finance manager of the finance department of the Municipal Improvements Service. Of that amount, about 1.9 million lari (more than $ 1 million) was spent to purchase power, and 6 million lari (about $3 million) was spent altogether for power, lamps, other equipment and materials, wages and taxes).

The remaining 6.5 million lari was spent on renovation of the lighting system, including the purchases of new bulbs, lamps and cables, and special purchases of lighting equipment for sightseeing in the capital.

Four million lari (more than $2 million) was approved for the purchase of 17,000 new bulbs in January of 2006. (The total city budget for 2006 is 320 million lari or about $178 million, and of that amount, 13 million lari or about $7 million is budget for street lighting.) According to the Municipality of Tbilisi Lighting Service, another 300,000 lari ($167,000) was spent on bulbs cables and lamps in February.

The City Municipal Improvements Service plans to finish installing the bulbs by the end of this summer. All central streets have new bulbs. The old bulbs consumed from 400 to 500 watts, while the new bulbs consume from 150 to 250 watts with the same light quality, according to Amiran Kurtsua, executive director of the Municipality of Tbilisi Lighting Service.

"Old lamps needed to be changed once in three months. The new ones will work for to five years," he said.

The absence of lights in Tbilisi's streets is not the result of a lack of electricity. The main problem, said Kurtsua, is the old bulbs and old cables, problems that require more money and more time.

At present, the government imports bulbs and lamps from Germany and Italy. The lamps work for 15-20 years and cost about 22 lari ($12.20).

At present, the streetlight system of other districts of the capital is renewing. The renovation works have been completed in the Zemo Ponichala, and the Varketili area. Other regions to be renovated are part of Gldani district, Kvemo Ponichala near Dolidze Street in Saburtalo district and the crossing streets of nearby territory.

Almost 90 percent of Tbilisi's streetlights will be lit by the end of August, Udzilauri promises. "I guarantee that at the end of the year the city will be so changed that you will not recognize it," he said.

However, Kurtsua is not sure the installation of new bulbs will be finished on time. It takes time to transport material to Tbilis after tenders are announced and winners chosen. Other necessary materials like cables need to be bought. The establishment of one lightpost (the column plus the bulbs and lamp) costs about 500-600 lari ($277-$333), according to Udzilauri.

Some capital residents are optimistic. Student Guram Bliadze, a resident of Ponichala district, said that the Rustavi highway was lit recently, but the crossing streets are still dark at night. He hopes that it will be better soon. "I think the next step maybe will be streets near my house," he said.

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