New HES project increases concerns over government’s environmental sensitivity

The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources has approved an environmental impact report (andcED) for the construction of a new hydroelectric power plant (HES) on a river in Antalya province where two other HES projects had already been canceled by court order, adding another controversy to the governmentand’s lack of environmental sensitivity.
The River Alara, located in the mountainous Gandundoimui district of Antalya, has seven HES projects lined up for it, along with an Alara dam project. Two of these projects were canceled in 2013 after the Antalya 1st Administrative Court ruled they be halted following a lawsuit filed by locals after the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning prepared a controversial report that stated a andcED is not necessary. This time, however, the ministry prepared a andcED that allows the construction of a new hydroelectric plant right beside the area where the two previously planned plants were to be built.
Mandunip Ermii, the lawyer representing the locals opposed to the plants, stated that the river will be restricted to a 5,500-meter-long transmission line that will and”surelyand” affect the localsand’ source of income based on agriculture and livestock along with an and”undisputedand” destruction of habitat in the river.
The governmentand’s insistence on building more than five plants on a natural site has flared up the already existing dispute between the government — perceived by some as insensitive to the concerns of the populace — and environmentalists.

h2Governmentand’s previous attitudes already raise environmental concernsh2
Another project involving a dam, this time in Hasankeyf, a town in Batman province, has already raised concerns over the future of locals living in the 12,000-year-old settlement, who will have to evacuate the town, in addition to environmental concerns over the natural habitat of the River Tigris that runs through Hasankeyf.
Hydroelectric power plant projects have frequently seen opposition, as in the examples of demonstrations held against HES projects in the Munzur Valley of Tunceli province, the Zile district of Tokat province and the Domaniandc district of Kandutahya province, where the recent death of a construction worker also introduced concerns related to workplace safety. Overall, the peopleand’s reactions can be seen as a sign of the government exhibiting an irresponsible attitude to peopleand’s demands related to environmental issues.
The government also stirred controversy when the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning recently released andcEDs for several disputed projects. A andcED for the construction of a hotel in Antalya province was approved by the ministry in late 2014 resulting in the cutting down of dozens of trees. Likewise, a andcED was approved for the expansion of a stone quarry owned by a member of the ruling party in February 2015. Demonstrations were held against this andcED as it reportedly allowed for the felling of 192,000 trees.
The most controversial of all the projects, however, is the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Mersin province, the construction of which began recently. A large number of people demonstrated against the construction of the plant, which is to be followed by the construction of two more nuclear power plants in northern and northwestern Turkey.
Several environmentally crucial issues have led to heavy criticism, including what impact these nuclear power plants will have on locals, how the authorities will manage radioactive waste and what kinds of precautions will be taken in the event of an emergency, among others, given the fact that government officials could not explain the causes of an hours-long power outage which reportedly affected 79 of the countryand’s 81 provinces in late March, and the mismanagement of the Soma and Ermenek mine disasters of 2014 that claimed the lives of hundreds.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman