The fires of Borjomi

The Washington Post has an article about the mid-August forest fires in Georgia’s Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, which appear to have been started deliberately by helicopters from Russia’s armed forces – even though the park is situated far from any conflict zone.

In the end, about 370 acres of the park burned, plus an additional 2,200 acres of a neighboring buffer zone. A government commission has been formed to investigate the causes and assess the damage, and Enukidze said he hopes international organizations will participate.

Telephone calls and e-mails by a reporter to Russian spokesmen seeking comment elicited no response.

Nana Janashia, executive director of the Caucasus Environmental NGO Network, said it was too early to put a price tag on the damage. Park officials say the fires came during their best season in years and set them back significantly. The park’s director, Toma Dekanoidze, estimated the cost to the economy could be as high as $700 million, including lost business for hotels and restaurants, and for local villagers who sell their produce, offer lodgings and work as hiking and horseback guides for tourists.

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