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Dam construction poses potential threats to Turkish freshwater biodiversity

March 9, 2011

We were forwarded the following information (available in full here) by Engin Yılmaz of Doga Dernegi (Birdlife Turkey), highlighting the potential threats to Turkish freshwater biodiversity caused by construction of dams and hydroelectric power plants (HEPPs):

“As it currently stands, the government of Turkey plans to construct 1,738 dams and hydroelectric power plants by 2023. However, the nearly 2,000 irrigation and drinking-water dams are also underway totaling up to nearly 4,000. The total length of river systems in Turkey that will be converted to HEPP’s or dams is around 10,000 kilometers, leaving very little of no room for natural ecosystems to function.

Hence, there is a serious concern that by the year 2023, there will be virtually no healthy rivers systems left in Turkey. There are neither environmental nor sociological impacts assessments of these projects at the basin or country level. Therefore, no one has a projection on how these large numbers of projects will, in total, affect Turkey’s biodiversity and people living in the countryside, while the contractions of hundreds of new dams goes on

Civil society movements all over Turkey have initiated campaigns to stop these hydroelectric power plants and dams [and] so far 83 lawsuits have been filed against dams and HEPP’s, and another 13 lawsuits are about to be filed”

The document argues that dam and HEPP construction has the potential to threaten the biodiversity held within 185 of Turkey’s 305 Key Biodiversity Areas, a network which is suggested will underpin the Natura 2000 conservation designation as and when Turkey enters the European Union.

Dam and HEPP construction continues to provide a contentious issue globally.  Similar debates over the sustainability, environmental, economic and social impacts of dams of HEPPs are currently occurring in China, Brazil and Ethiopia.  The impact of dam building on freshwater biodiversity emerged as a key issues in the Top questions for freshwater biodiversity‘ exercise carried out at the BioFresh Montserrat conference in February.

We would welcome your comments and alternate views on the situation, both in Turkey and globally.  Can the generation of hydroelectric power  justify the potential loss of biological or cultural diversity?  Are there any sustainable new ways forward for dam construction?

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