Dams in Turkey’s Black Sea region not as clean as presumed

Resource: Hurriyet Daily News, 21.07.2010
Dams in the Black Sea region have many negative effects on the environment and residents’ everyday lives, according to a report prepared by five experts working in the Kaçkar mountains located in the north of Turkey. There are also allegedly huge gaps in Turkey’s legal framework as well as the implementation of existing laws, says the report, which was prepared last year, but only recently published

Dams are not nearly as environmentally friendly as claimed, according to a report on the effects of 30 dams planned for the Kaçkar mountains in the northern Black Sea province of Artvin.

There are also allegedly huge gaps in Turkey’s legal framework as well as the implementation of existing laws, said the report, which was prepared by five experts in the field in 2009 but only recently published.

Staging their own unique protest against dams in the Black Sea province of Rize, newly weds Hüsnü Kapot and Zuhal Kapot participated in a demonstration immediately after their nuptials on Tuesday.

Hüsnü Kapot, an environmental activist with a strong stand against the construction of dams in the region, and his new wife participated in a protest organized by “The Black Sea is Rebelling” platform against the drying up of the Gürgen Creek.

The organization’s main aim is to combat the negative effects on the environment and residents’ everyday lives that will allegedly occur from the hundreds of dams slated for construction in the Black Sea region.

Projects on the construction of dams have become very common in recent years in Turkey, as the demand for energy increases with the country’s rapidly raising growth rates. Moreover, dams are preferred to other means of energy production because their infrastructure costs less, making them more economical.

At the moment, there are roughly 2,300 projects for dams in the country.

Although there is a general consensus that the hydroelectric production of energy through dams is one of the most clean energy production means, people in Turkey are becoming increasingly aware of how dams negatively affect their lives following numerous protests against hydroelectric plants.

One of the main mistakes during the preparation of the dam projects was to exclude the energy transmission lines that would be built to transmit the energy from the dam to its place of usage, according to the report.

In addition, the financial costs for building the transmission lines and the route through which they will pass is also a serious concern because forests are generally destroyed to build such infrastructure, the report said.

The findings further said the environmental damage caused by transmission lines was very great and should also be included when estimating the environmental impact of dams before licenses are given for construction.

Moreover, the construction of the dam itself, and especially the construction of water transmission channels, poses many dangers to the environment and the rivers on which they are built, according to the report.

A great amount of damage is also caused by new roads that are used to transport raw materials during construction, further leading to deforestation. The traffic on these roads also pollutes the air, adding to the environmental costs that are not estimated before constructing the dams, the report said.

“The Environmental Impact Report [ÇED] should not be prepared just for the sake of filling in the [dam] project files,” the report said, adding that the impact must be estimated inclusively for all the dam projects slated for construction on the same river. This impact is arguably much larger than the sum of the individually estimated environmental impacts of each project, according to the research.

The report further said the recent trend of constructing numerous dams throughout the country and the technical steps followed to approve their projects conflicted with the related Turkish legal framework, as well as the international regulations signed by Turkey.

The report mentions Articles 17 and 56 of the Turkish Constitution, which oversee the citizen’s right to protect and develop their material and spiritual riches and live in a healthy and balanced environment. The articles also state that the protection of the environment from pollution is the duty of both citizens and the state. The report mentions domestic laws as well, such as the one on the environment and on the functioning of the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

Regarding international laws, the report mentions violations of the European Commission’s Water Framework Directive, the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats and the CITES Convention, which regulates the international trade of animals and plants at risk of extinction.

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