A planned dam in northeastern Turkey, the Beshik Haya cascade reservoirs, will divert most of the Mtkvari River from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea, according to Georgia’s Green Party. This could trigger an environmental catastrophe, warns the group, not to mention a crisis in local foreign relations.
Ecological and human consequences
If it changes the flow of the Mtkvari River, the dam will also cause water levels to fall in the portion of the river that runs through Georgia.
Riparian ecosystems along the river will obviously suffer from a drastically reduced water supply. And lower water levels in the river will force authorities to recycle sewage from Tbilisi and Rustavi, raising the risk of epidemics among Georgia’s population.
Azerbaijan, Georgia’s neighbor to the southeast, is also heavily dependent on the portion of the Mtkvari River that flows into the Caspian Sea.
“An artificially created water deficit might cause tension between the states” of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, Georgian Green Party Head Georgi Gachechiladze told Democracy & Freedom Watch, a Georgian publication.
Dams damaging Turkey’s foreign relations in all directions
The Beshik Haya project is not the first Turkish hydropower dam to adversely affect human and ecological communities in Turkey and beyond. Nor is it the first to hurt Turkey’s diplomatic standing in its region.
Just last summer, the United Nations issued a report on how Turkish dams violate human rights, both in and out of its borders.
Turkish hydro projects along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, for example, have dried up large swathes of former marshland in Iraq and Syria as well as dams that desert communities rely on, forcing entire communities to resettle and severely affecting local plant and animal life.
Sadly, the UN report seems to have changed little about Turkey’s hydroelectric plans.
It’s too soon to tell whether Georgia’s Green Party might prevail against the Beshik Haya project. If Georgia and Azerbaijan form an alliance around the issue, however, Turkey will have to alter its plans or estrange two of its closest neighbors.
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