Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Europa Nostra recognizes Allianoi campaigner

Our very first post on Hasankeyf Matters was about the fate of the ancient city of Allianoi, one that we hope very much to prevent Hasankeyf sharing.

Before, during and after the burial and flooding of Allianoi, Associate Professor Ahmet Yaraş was a tireless campaigner for its excavation, preservation and -- now -- commemoration. His work has not gone unnoticed, even though Allianoi has now been consigned to a watery grave, and this year Europa Nostra formally recognized his efforts with an award for dedicated service. Europa Nostra is a pan-European organization representing around 250 NGOs from more than 50 countries and describes itself as the "voice of cultural heritage in Europe."

As the jury noted, “the long lasting public campaign to save this major heritage complex from oblivion represents a powerful example to the world of how authorities should deal with their national cultural heritage, and thus the Initiative highly deserves to be recognised by this award.”

Dr. Yaraş in Allianoi (photo: Hakan Cengiz Yazar)
Dr. Yaraş previously wrote a moving piece on the loss of the site to which he had dedicated his professional life, and which had only begun to offer up its secrets. Titled I’m ashamed of what I see, we include a brief extract below.*
In an effort to save itself, the State Waterworks Authority (DSİ) is offering tender after tender;  
Concerned about votes, politicians are flashing smiles on all sides;
In an illegal protest, the kids are throwing themselves in chains;  
The lawyers are still seeking law in the courts of this country;  
I am watching the place I excavated with my fingernails and to which I dedicated the best 12 years of my life being destroyed.  
Scientific ethics...  
Between the cries of yes / no
 an affront to humanity... / a butchery of history...  
My heart aches...  
I’m ashamed of what I am witnessing. 
We warmly congratulate Dr. Yaraş on his achievement, and on his continued efforts to ensure that while Allianoi is gone, it is not forgotten.


* You can read the full translation of the piece here and the Turkish original here.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Yurtta sürdürülebilirlik, cihanda sürdürülebilirlik!*

Istanbul itself faces numerous challenges in sustainable development
Photo: Jonathan Lewis, Tarlabaşı Istanbul

The UNDP has released the Istanbul Declaration following a gathering in Turkey, and the key take-home message is one of sustainability, more specifically sustainable development.

There is plenty that Turkey would do well to heed among the four key points in the statement:

1) A globally adopted vision that combines equitable growth with environmental sustainability, rooted in universal values and global social justice, is needed. It should include a strong emphasis on social inclusion, social protection, and equity -- in recognition of the fact that economic development has too often gone hand in hand with environmental degradation and increased inequality. In Istanbul we discussed this vision, as embodied in the UN Secretary General’s High-level Panel Report on Global Sustainability, and in the UNDP Human Development Report.

2) Additional resources are needed to fund innovative solutions to address today’s challenges to ensure a more sustainable and equitable development. Official Development Assistance remains an important resource and must be used in an effective manner. A coordinated approach in mobilization of global capital and local resources is essential to solve global environmental and social problems. New partnerships, inclusive of the private sector and civil society, can increase resources and contribute to a better life for all people today and for generations to come.

3) Women constitute half of the world’s population. Empowering women, enhancing their opportunities through access to education, health care, basic services and their participation in the labour force, are essential. Promoting their larger participation in decision-making processes is also vital for sustainable development efforts.

4) Good governance for sustainable development is essential at global, regional, national and local levels. The United Nations has a vital role to play in engaging all societal actors and supporting national capacities to devise and implement comprehensive sustainable development strategies.

We were delighted to see such a firm commitment to sustainability voiced in Istanbul (a city that itself faces significant problems in finding a balanced roadmap for development). Will Ankara be taking steps in this direction in the near future? We certainly hope so…

--HK Matters team

* “Sustainability at home, sustainability in the world!” – based on a popular saying by Atatürk

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Happy World Water Day!

Today marks the 22nd UN World Water Day. This year the theme is Water and Food Security, providing a great opportunity to look at this area of Turkey’s water policy.

Of course, agriculture (including irrigation) forms just one part of water policy, but holistic understanding of such a large and complex policy area (and system) requires careful analysis of each and every component.

An old woman works an irrigated plot in Mardin, SE Turkey 
Photo: Justin Vela
While the dam that threatens Hasankeyf will be used to feed a hydroelectric power (HEP) plant, the greater Ilısu project includes an irrigation dam at Cizre, which will also serve to control the dam’s tail waters. Turkey’s irrigation and HEP programmes have some striking commonalities, as illustrated by last year’s World Bank (WB) report on reform of Turkey’s irrigation sector.

The WB has for several decades been a major cheerleader for -- and sponsor of -- dam projects worldwide, particularly those relating to HEP. Today it remains the subject of criticism for its support of aggressive pro-dam development and related government policy. Nonetheless, it was fairly critical of Turkey, providing an extensive list of “what didn’t work” in irrigation reform:
  • Management of irrigation has been devolved from the state to water user associations (WUAs): This process was found to have been hurried and lacking an adequate legal infrastructure.
  • WUAs in poorer regions are unable to manage larger infrastructure, and many farmers struggle to afford operation & maintenance (O&M) costs.
  • The State Waterworks Authority (DSİ) has made little progress in integrated water resources management, while it too cannot adequately fund O&M.
  • Institutions working on irrigation are not fully integrated.
Similarly, Hasankeyf residents have complained of insufficient consultation on their relocation (and associated costs). Meanwhile a lack of coordination and failure to work at international standards echoes the government’s run-before-it-can walk approach to Ilısu or the burial of Allianoi.

So, this World Water Day, as Hasankeyf Matters we put our support behind moves toward an integrated, sustainable water policy that truly values Turkey’s human, cultural, historical, natural AND economic assets. We hope you do too.


Monday, March 19, 2012

How long is the lifespan of a dam?

With its human history stretching back thousands of years and its vast canyons formed over millennia, Hasankeyf is a place that demands long-term thinking. If it is to be submerged under the waters of the Ilısu Dam, it only makes sense to ask how many years of benefit would be gained from the trade-off. Answering this question, though, poses a real challenge.

The Rindge Dam in Southern California: built in 1926 and filled with sediment by around 1950
Advocacy groups such as Doğa Derneği say the Ilısu Dam’s lifespan would be just 70 years, a blip in Hasankeyf’s history, but a number with no clear citation. In a statement to Congress in 2010, the American Society of Civil Engineers described 50 years as “the typical useful lifespan” of a dam. But there can be dramatic variations on either side of that average. According to International Rivers:

“Dams age at different rates and in a different way, depending on a variety of circumstances. Some dams may remain safe for a thousand years, others may start to crack and leak after less than a decade.”

To give just two examples from either end of the spectrum, the Grand Anicut (Kallanai) in India, an irrigation dam built from unhewn stone in the 2nd century A.D., is still in use nearly 2,000 years later, while the Laoying reservoir in China had to be abandoned even before dam construction was completed due to excessive siltation.

The Grand Anicut dam in India
Various factors come into play in determining how long a dam will remain usable, including its design and construction materials, the composition of the foundation rock, how well the dam is maintained, local temperature and humidity levels, the risk of earthquakes and other natural hazards, and the sediment levels of feeder rivers.

As we have yet to come across a comprehensive assessment of how these and other factors would affect Ilısu’s expected lifespan, we are issuing a call to knowledgeable engineers to make such an estimate and share it with us in order to better inform the public. Turkish-language submissions welcomed. Please spread the word!


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sign the petition to save Hasankeyf!

Want to show your support for Hasankeyf?  Take a minute to read and sign this petition

Four organizations from Turkey, Iran and Iraq-KRG have initiated the campaign:
. . . with the support of more than 40 international NGOs, including the Berne Declaration (Switzerland), International Rivers (USA), ECA Watch (Austria), and the Allianoi Initiative Group (Turkey).

Please sign it, share it with your friends and let them know why Hasankeyf matters.

-- HK Matters team

'They don't want to move'

On March 14, marking International Day of Action for Rivers, Doğa Derneği made public the results of a survey of the people of Hasankeyf regarding their coming relocation. The findings make for interesting reading, revealing that residents are dissatisfied with the level of public consultation and concerned for their future prospects after they are moved to make way for the dam.

Speaking at a press conference in the village, Hasankeyf Campaign Assistant and DD member Derya Engin noted that "the study proves government claims that the Ilısu Dam enjoys public support in the region are false.”

The DD press release, titled "They don't want to move," provides a précis of the results of the survey, conducted by Ebru Işıklı, as well as arguments in support of the protection and preservation of Hasankeyf. The same statement has also been circulated widely online, including by Turkish nature magazine Atlas.

Computer-generated image of Yeni Hasankeyf, complete with high-rise apartment buildings
You can find an English translation of the statement here, but the main points are as follows:
  • Close to 70% of Hasankeyf residents interviewed do not want to move to Yeni (new) Hasankeyf.
  • Almost half say they cannot afford to relocate, while close to 30 percent have no idea where they will go when evicted.
  • Only one in five residents would consider relocation, citing poor housing or a lack of employment opportunities.
  • The study also claims residents’ needs and means were not identified or adequately considered in the relocation project.
  • The lack of consultation on relocation plans flies in the face of EU and World Bank requirements (one of the reasons European credit agencies withdrew support for Ilısu).
  • The statement again underlines that Hasankeyf meets nine out of 10 criteria for UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • The Ilısu project will displace between 55,000 and 65,000 people.
  • While the lifespan of the dam is just 70 years*, its cultural, humanitarian and ecological impact will far outlast it.
We are happy to see the results of the survey published, and hope that -- with last week's visit to Ilısu still fresh in his mind -- Minister Eroğlu may find time to give them his attention.

--HK Matters team

* DD does not give any source in support of this claim. While all dams
age at different rates depending on how they are built and under what
conditions, the American Society of Civil Engineers has described 50
years as the "typical useful lifespan" of a dam.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hasankeyf to mark International Day of Action for Rivers

"In 2023 not a single free-running stream will remain in Turkey," according to Doğa Derneği (The Nature Association) in an article published today in Turkish newspaper Radikal.

Tigris River, Hasankeyf
The article notes that the people of Hasankeyf will mark International Day of Action for Rivers with a press conference in which they will discuss their reasons for not wanting to leave Hasankeyf.

Zeugma, Allianoi and Hasankeyf receive frequent mention in connection with dam projects in Turkey, but Doğa Derneği looks broadly at the impact of such projects on Anatolia: "There are plans to build 1,738 dams and hydroelectric plants and another 2,000 artificial reservoirs for drinking water and irrigation in Turkey by 2023."

What does this mean for plants and wildlife? According to Doğa Derneği, there are 305 Important Natural Habitats harboring 90 percent of Turkey's biodiversity; 185 of these habitats are threatened by dams and hydroelectric plants.

Hydroelectric plants may be the cheapest source of renewable energy, but are they worth the hidden costs?

For more on biodiversity in Turkey, Doğa Derneği has published several guides, including Turkey's Important Natural Habitats (2 vols., in Turkish). The chapter on Southeastern Anatolia is also available separately (pdf).

--HK Matters team

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Atomic theory

Today marks the first anniversary of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the northeastern coast of Tomoku province, Honshu. The quake (the largest ever recorded in Japan) and subsequent tsunami devastated coastal cities in the region.

The incredible images of washed-away towns and the mounting death toll were soon eclipsed by a series of explosions at the nuclear reactor in Fukushima. While initial rumors that these represented nuclear meltdown were dismissed by the Japanese government, they were subsequently acknowledged as representing a level 7 (the highest) event on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES).

Evacuees after the 2011 earthquake in Japan (Reuters)

Until the accident Japan had produced around 30 percent of its power from nuclear generators. Now, however, all but two of its 54 nuclear generators (with a combined power output of 47.5 GW) stand idle. And Japan is not alone in its volte-face on nuclear: Germany, for example -- despite being one of the 15 countries in the world reliant on nuclear for more than 25 percent of energy generation -- last year announced plans to close all of its nuclear power plants by 2022.

While the end is far from nigh for nuclear, its time as the cornerstone of “green” national energy policies -- thanks to its minimal carbon emissions -- is well and truly over.

The global trend is toward a declining reliance on atomic energy, but it remains a key part of plans for expanding the power generating capacity of developing countries, Turkey among them. Ankara has announced its intentions to install at least three nuclear power plants, likely to be built in cooperation with Korea and China.

Turkey has one of the fastest growing energy markets in the world and, with a rapidly expanding population and continuing economic growth, power demand is only going one way.

Is nuclear an inevitable part of the solution? And what would be the implications of Turkey’s abandoning its atomic ambitions? Not just for Ankara’s attempts to reduce its energy imports from Iran, but for efforts to stop hydroelectric projects like Ilısu...


Saturday, March 10, 2012

New construction in Hasankeyf

Following a tradition started by his father, Abdulkadir, Hasankeyf resident Fırat Argun plants trees each spring in his garden and surrounding fields. Around the time of Newroz, people from all over the world visit Hasankeyf to help with the effort.

Fırat knows the waters are coming to flood Hasankeyf, but that does not stop him from planting trees. Quoting the wisdom of the Prophet Muhammed, Fırat says, "Pray as though you'll die tomorrow, work as though you'll live forever."

Breakfast at Has Bahçe
(new guest house behind trees)
And despite the impending destruction of Hasankeyf, Firat decided to build a guest house at the back of his garden, with the idea that this would make it easier for visitors to spend more time in Hasankeyf and get a better feel for the place.

Once he built the guest house, however, officials filed a lawsuit against him for building on a protected site. Never mind that in the 1960s the Government built new houses on top of the archeological remains of the lower city to move people out of the caves.
March 2011 work begins on the new cafe.

Newly built cafe near gated entry to castle precinct
Of course, it's reasonable to restrict construction in and around important archeological site.

But many Hasankeyf residents complain that these restrictions have been used to suppress local initiative to improve the community.

It's surprising, therefore, to see a large new restaurant constructed last year at the entrance to the castle precinct. (Before and after photos at right)


The new restaurant (light-colored building in foreground)
built and opened in 2011, in a town where most locals
have been restricted from developing
their property and businesses.