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A mega-power station may lie just down the road, but Samegrelians still live in the dark.

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The Saakashvili administration has promised that 2006 will be the first year since 1992 without blackouts. The only question for the central government -- and for Georgians accustomed to life in the dark -- is how to make it happen. Many believe that the western region of Samegrelo could contain part of the answer.

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Contraband crackdown, better roads, and a repaired Enguri. How do Tbilisi’s promises for Samegrelo measure up with the results?

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Population: 462,000 (includes Kvemo Svaneti region)
Size: 7505 sq km
Main Town: Zugdidi (pop: 68, 200)
Average salary: 128 GEL ($71) per month (2004)

Part of the ancient kingdom of Colchis, Samegrelo is also the birthplace of Georgia’s first elected president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia.

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"If the factories worked like they used to, we wouldn’t have any light at all."

Gennady Shelia,
Engineer, Zugdidi

"I’m ashamed that kids are so amazed when the light comes on for an hour."

Tamuna Shonia,
Journalist, Zugdidi

"Improvements must be done step-by-step. It can’t be like ‘I have light, he doesn’t."

Timur Jikia,
Taxi Driver, Zugdidi