In today’s Turkey, free-flowing rivers can’t just exist. Turkish officials seem intent on turning rivers into “green” solutions for the country’s growing hunger for energy sources.
A project on the Köprülü River in southern Turkey offers a case in point. The main motivation for building a dam there is hydropower generation, 99,462 megawatts of it, to be precise. Scheduled for completion in 2014, the river’s Kasimlar Dam is part of a scheme to build an additional 1,783 dams by 2023 on top of the more than 2,000 dams that already exist. Up to 2 million people will be affected by the projects, and Turkish ecologists worry they will leave hardly any free-flowing river system intact.
In Kasimlar’s case, the dam will endanger parts of the country’s longest hiking trail, the 500-kilometer-long St. Paul’s Trail, threaten the livelihoods of about 15 farming villages, and cause the loss of farmland and forest. The habitats of over 150 endemic species, like the rare brown fish owl, will be affected.
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Constanze Letsch is a freelance writer based in Istanbul.