PELIN – Let’s save Hasankeyf for peace

Let’s save Hasankeyf for peaceThe IlIsu Dam project, which will lead to the destruction of Turkeyand#39s ancient town of Hasankeyf, has come to the publicand#39s attention once again. Those who often lecture the people about history and our ancestors appear to be the ones destroying history the most.

The project belongs to the andldquoold Turkeyandrdquo however, those who established the andldquonew Turkeyandrdquo are the most enthusiastic about it. The IlIsu Dam project will bury Hasankeyf, the only place in the world that meets nine out of 10 UNESCO World Heritage Site criteria, and the Dicle Valley.

The flooding of this 12,000-year-old historic legacy and nearby villages will displace more than 80,000 people, and a vast area will face ecological destruction. The State Waterworks Authority (DSI) recently announced that the IlIsu Dam project and the construction of a thermal power plant, which were halted five months ago, will resume shortly.

After this announcement, workplaces located inside caves and around Hasankeyf Castle have been cleared and roads leading to the neighborhood have been blocked to passage.The IlIsu Dam project was exempted from obtaining a report of Environmental Impact Assessment (ED), on the grounds that it was listed as part of the stateand#39s investment program before the ED regulation came into effect in 1993.

The Council of State accepted an objection made by the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architectsand#39 Chambers (TMMOB) based on the temporary third article of the ED regulation in 2011. The article lists the types of projects that are not required to have an environmental impact assessment.

The top court ruled in favor of the TMMOBand#39s Chamber of Architects and Landscape Architects, which had brought a lawsuit demanding that the IlIsu Dam project not be exempted from obtaining a ED report. As a consequence, the Council of State issued an injunction for the project in January 2012.

However, this ruling has never been implemented and the government once again included the IlIsu Dam project among those exempted from the required ED report in April 2012 in a move to defy the court order The work on construction of all the infrastructure linked to the main project was also exempted by the government. TMMOB objected to his decision as well, but the construction of the dam continued simultaneously with the ongoing legal process.

The Initiative to Save Hasankeyf issued a statement that explained the process as follows: andldquoThe IlIsu Dam project, whose construction started in 2010, was halted in August, after the construction workers resigned. Shortly before this, two contractors were abducted by the HPG [the Peopleand#39s Defense Forces, an armed wing of the Kurdistan Workersand#39 Party (PKK)].

The HPG warned the two contractors not to continue the dam project and released the pair after efforts were made by a mediator group. The HPG had issued several statements against the IlIsu project in past years.

The HPG announced that the project would lead to destruction in the region and function as an assimilation tool against the Kurdish identity.andrdquoWhen the dam construction was halted, environmentalistsand#39 hopes were raised that the project might be entirely canceled, but the hope was short-lived.

The State Waterworks Authority (DSI) aertised in order to hire new workers and announced that it would step up security measures on the construction site, which according to the DSI, would be protected by Turkish soldiers. Now, a new dimension has been added to the possible ecological, historic and societal impacts of the IlIsu Dam project one that is likely to erode the settlement process and ongoing peace.

The path that leads to peace lies in not re-militarizing Turkeyand#39s southeast, but in heeding the voice of the people in that region and valuing their demands.Official sources say that the planned damand#39s possible contribution to Turkeyand#39s economy is calculated at $400 million.

However, it is ambiguous as to how this was calculated. The flowrate calculations pertaining to the Dicle River are from 20 or 30 years ago.

It is already well known that the current flowrates of the river can only amount to 70 percent of those calculated by the DSI, because the rate has been diminished by drought.There is also the issue of the historic monuments and artifacts in the region, which constitute an open air museum, that are planned to be moved elsewhere.

However, both the destination and the method that will be used to move them are unknown. The Law on Protection of Cultural and Natural Assets says in its 20th article, andldquoUnmovable cultural assets should be preserved where they are located.

andrdquo Apparently, this article is not being taken seriously by the officials.A meeting was held about the touristic and agricultural potential of Hasankeyf after the dam project is completed.

I would like to ask the attendees of this meeting, andldquoWhat tourism and what agriculture are you talking about, after the area is under water?andrdquoThere could be a great gain of touristic potential for Hasankeyf and its surrounding neighborhood, which is an environmentally protected zone, if judicious planning is implemented for the region. Such an effort combined with the historic legacy of the nearby provinces would create a perfect harmony and supply great gains to the region, much more than a dam would earn with its 50-year longevity.

However, in order to achieve this, the government must first stop viewing the country as a massive construction zone.

SOURCE: The East African