The more than 20 hydroelectric projects that Turkey has built on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers have been sharply criticized for displacing populations and harming the local environment.
Now it’s even easier for hydro companies to build destructive dams in Turkey. Real estate for 13 different hydroelectric projects in 12 provinces can now be seized at any time by Turkey’s Energy Market Regulatory Agency (EPDK) and State Waterworks Authority (DSİ), thanks to a recent decision by the prime minister’s cabinet, as reported in Bianet, Turkey’s independent media agency.
Hydroelectric projects: A matter of national defense?
The cabinet invoked Turkey’s “Nationalization Law” to pass the ruling, even though the law is only supposed to apply in extraordinary circumstances, when homeland security is on the line.
“In times of war, [authorities] used to nationalize properties, but there really was a war in those times. Now, the only war is for investment,” said Cömert Uygar Erdem, an environmental lawyer.
Countless people may be pushed off their land to make way for a hydroelectric project in their area thanks to the ruling. The projects for which property seizure has been authorized are spread all over the country, from Black Sea provinces Zonguldak and Ordu to the southern province of Adana to Erzurum in the northwest.
The use of the homeland defense law to authorize land grabs in these areas is even more absurd when one considers recent remarks by Energy Secretary Taner Yıldız (in Turkish) that Turkey “has no problem producing more energy than it consumes at this time.”
Hydro’s checkered legal history in Turkey
Turkey’s highest administrative court had already prevented the cabinet from giving the EPDK the power to nationalize property in 2004, because it would constitute a “transfer of authority”, according to Erdem.
More than 100 of the approximately 120 suits that have been filed against property seizure for hydro development have won, suggesting that legally, hydroelectric companies are often on the wrong side of the law when they try to seize land.
But this time, the cabinet issued separate rulings for each of the 13 projects it wanted to accelerate, directly authorizing the land grab rather than delegating it to the EPDK.
“People will be forced to emigrate and deprived of their properties when [authorities] confiscate their real estates. There were already similar measures in force until [now…] The process is going to accelerate due to this decision, and the destruction of nature will [gather speed,]” said Erdem.
A record of damage to humans and the environment
Last year, the United Nations released a report condemning Turkey’s hydroelectric development plans because of the harm they would cause human communities and ecosystems.
The planned projects have become a major source of contention between Turkey and Iraq, whose inhabitants would directly suffer as a result of changes in the water flow from the Tigris and Euphrates. Earlier this year, Georgia’s Green Party warned that a planned dam in northeastern Turkey could similarly impact Georgia and Azerbaijan by diverting the flow of the biggest water artery in the Southern Caucasus.
Turkey’s hydroelectric habit has already tainted its relations with neighbors. If the cabinet’s ruling stands, the government will be faced with a new population of landless citizens, driven off their property by the greed of hydroelectricity companies. Is that really a situation they want to create?
Read more about hydroelectricity in Turkey:
Turkey’s Early Hydroelectric Dams Featured in Exhibit
Hydroelectric Dam In Turkey May Cause Environmental Catastrophe In Georgia
Turkish Water Projects Stirring Resentment Around The Region
Turkey’s Dams Are Violating Human Rights, UN Report Says
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