Thursday, January 14, 2016

Hasankeyf shortlisted for Europe's 7 Most Endangered

Europa Nostra has shortlisted Hasankeyf for its 7 Most Endangered program, raising hopes that plans for the Ilısu hydroelectric dam project may be altered to spare both the town and the Upper Tigris Valley from flooding. Ranging from the Palace of Justice in Brussels, Belgium, to the archaeological site of Ererouyk and the village of Ani Pemza in Armenia, the shortlist of 14 sites highlights Europe's geographical breadth and cultural diversity.

Hasankeyf: an unparalleled treasure of Seljuk-era urban
archaeology at the eastern edge of Europe

As noted in Europa Nostra’s announcement, non-official projections indicate that construction of the dam may continue through 2017 and that the huge reservoir will not begin to fill before 2018. Previously, government officials had stated that the dam would be completed by 2015. While President Erdoğan insisted today that the Ilısu dam will be completed, the delay in construction opens a window of opportunity for stakeholders and experts to put forward a strategic plan that balances conservation and sustainable development.

In recent years, Hasankeyf has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. With proper planning and regulation to protect archaeological and natural treasures, Hasankeyf could accommodate 2 million visitors and produce revenue approaching 500 million euros annually. It is worth noting that this figure, which has already been surpassed in Göreme National Park in Cappadocia, is higher than the anticipated direct revenues of the Ilısu hydroelectric plant.

Already the first steps to spur sustainable growth are visible in the ecological villages project launched by the Hasankeyf District Governor in the nearby village of Üç Yol/Difni with the support of the Tigris Development Agency (DiKA).

Mor Aho Monastery lies east of Hasankeyf,
near the village of Üç Yol/Difni

Even as it is preparing for the flooding of Hasankeyf, the Turkish government seems to recognize the value of the town's heritage. It is reinforcing some structures, including the Imam Abdullah Tomb and the Artukid Bridge, to be left under water, and there are plans to remove a number of monuments and architectural fragments to the museum being nearing completion in the new settlement area. The government's vision for Hasankeyf's cultural attractions is summarized briefly in a recent press statement.

If Hasankeyf is designated as one of Europe’s 7 Most Endangered sites, heritage and financial experts from Europa Nostra and the European Investment Bank Institute, working in close cooperation with public and private stakeholders representing local and national interests, will assess the site and, taking into consideration the investments that have already been made, help formulate a feasible action plan for conserving Hasankeyf and its invaluable universal heritage.

It is hoped that this report will contribute to an ongoing discussion of theories and methods of heritage conservation among leading conservationists, government decision-makers, and other stakeholders in Turkey.

--HK Matters team

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