Since the 2008 Russian-Georgian War forced them to leave, hundreds of families have called the Prezeti Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp home. Made up of hundreds of simple, identical homes in the foothills of the Northern Caucasus Mountains, the camp only has limited supporting infrastructure, a situation the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has worked to improve.
In August 2021, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Europe District completed a water supply infrastructure project, bringing stability to the supply and distribution of water for the roughly 1,000 Georgian residents. The Humanitarian Assistance project was built with funding through the U.S. European Command, or EUCOM, and in close partnership with the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation.
“Prior to project execution, the settlement’s water supply system was manually operated, without the proper support pads and rusted from exposure to the elements. The water supply system was inadequate for the settlement’s needs,” said Europe District Project Coordinator for the Caucasus Region Nana Kacheishvili, a local national who works in Europe District’s Caucasus Project Office in Tbilisi, Georgia. “At the time the settlement was built it was intended to serve as a short-term housing solution and the availability of utilities was limited. However, its use has become more long-lasting in nature and therefore providing an improved water system is vital to enhancing the essential services to the population.”
In all, the project involved the installation of three new storage tanks to replace the aging existing ones, providing the settlement the capacity to store 100,000 liters of potable water. The project also included drilling a new well, installation of new pumps, connections to the existing water lines and a pump house. The new water supply set up also includes an electric power supply and control system, a significant upgrade to the previous manually operated system.
“Now local residents will have a new well with an electrical power supply and controls, as well as new tanks for storing 100,000 liters of water with an automated pump control system,” the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi said in a statement about the recently completed project. “Improving the water system is vital to enhancing the essential services for Prezeti residents, and again demonstrates the depth of the U.S.—Georgia partnership.”
The Georgia National Guard has a unique role in that partnership between the United States and the Republic of Georgia, partnering through the National Guard State Partnership Program since 1994 and maintaining close relationships with their military counterparts. As part of that relationship, the Georgia National Guard’s Maj. Dan Sekula directly supports the Office of Defense Cooperation in the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi and recently participated in an on-site ceremony on August 4 celebrating the completion of the water supply project with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers teammates and local Georgian officials.
"The Georgia National Guard is honored to partner with the European Command’s Office of Defense Cooperation in the Country of Georgia as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to bring critical infrastructure to those who need it most," Sekula said. “I had the privilege to share the ribbon cutting ceremony with The Adjutant General of the Georgia National Guard, Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden, and to visit the Internally Displaced Village of Prezeti. We were also able to visit the Georgia Mariam Makhashvili Military Rehabilitation Center, which was built with a more than $4 million Foreign Military Financing grant through the U.S. Government, where Georgian Soldiers can receive treatment for combat injuries. Since its opening in January 2020, the center has helped over 250 Georgians and 175 Ukrainian Soldiers and their families. Both of these amazing projects were built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in close collaboration with the ODC in the U.S. Embassy and they both showcase the value of our State Partnership Program here in the Georgia."
Kacheishvili added that as a local Georgian, she takes special pride in delivering quality and impactful projects, including the recently completed water supply system.
“For me as local person, supporting to Georgians through U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is valuable twice, first that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Caucasus team delivers fully functional and vital projects with high standard and quality. Our water tanks are distinguished with quality; local government representatives highlight the quality of the work and expresses deep appreciation of the support we deliver,” Kacheishvili said. “Secondly, projects for the community which support local development are extremely important and valuable; water is the essential source of healthy life and sanitary system improvement - and it’s also valuable for people simply to know that government thinks and cares about you.”
In addition to the direct benefits of the water supply system, the project employed local Georgians as well. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked with local Georgian contractor LCONS, employing local Georgians on the job, to deliver this roughly $300,000 project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers similarly seeks to hire locally when feasible for its various construction projects in Georgia like the Military Rehabilitation Center and through EUCOM’s Humanitarian Assistance program. Other Humanitarian Assistance program projects underway currently include group homes and centers for children with disabilities and the renovation of a clinic in the community of Vaziani outside of the capital in Tbilisi.