Ikizdere villagers march in protest of tree massacre

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- Residents of IimIir village in the Ikizdere Valley, in Rize province, marched on Thursday in protest of the construction of a hydroelectric power plant in spite of the valley’s status as a protected site, for which hundreds of trees have been cut.

Villagers gathered in front of a work machine brought to the site for the plant’s construction and chanted slogans against the construction. Ikizdere Valley was designated a natural conservation area by Trabzon Cultural and Natural Assets Protection Board on Oct. 22, 2010. However, 24 hydroelectric power plants are planned for the valley. Construction of the IimIirli Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP) began seven months ago, but had been interrupted in the face of protests by the villagers. However, work started again in the area two days ago with machines felling hundreds of trees. Villagers marched to the construction site on Thursday.

One of the villagers, 68-year-old Osman AytIntaI, took down a poster of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan off a bridge located along the road that leads to the HPP construction. He said ErdoIan doesn’t have anything to do with the HPP, and accused the constructors of trying to use the prime minister for their cause. He said he would take the poster home.

Ismet EkIi, an activist from the Brotherhood of Rivers, an ecologist group, said: “When our prime minister visited Rize last summer a delegation from our region had met with him. The prime minister told us that the IimIirli HPP project had been suspended. Seven months later, work has begun again and a tree massacre has taken place. There is not enough water in this river to produce energy. We think the company is after loans that will be provided by foreign banks. You cannot have 24 HPPs in a 68-kilometer-long valley. They called us traitors, they called us ‘environmentalist types.’ We love our country and we are not against energy. We would like to be heard by our prime minister.”

(CihanToday’s Zaman)