CENGİZ AKTAR As the international consortium to build the Ilısu Dam in the southeastern town of Hasankeyf collapses, speculations are spreading that the dam plays a critical role in the government’s struggle with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
Hardliners assert that the region will be filled with dams to block the PKK’s movements. This is not an old myth.
Construction of the Ilısu Dam was on the agenda of a meeting of the Higher Board of Counter-Terrorism dated Feb. 23, 2007. Then then-director of the State Water Works, or DSİ – today’s environment and forestry minister in charge of industry and energy – attended the meeting, which was presided over by then-Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül. The DSİ explained that the dam’s reservoir, spreading over an area of 10,000 hectares, might cut off some critical PKK routes and submerge caves used by the PKK under water, therefore restricting the group’s mobility and sheltering opportunities.
First of all, such an argument seriously puts into doubt the efficiency of institutions struggling with the PKK. It is also a concise expression of the fact that it is still not being understood that the Kurdish issue will not be resolved simply by putting natural blocks to the fore. Who cares! This is an ill-minded approach, one ready to change the geography and ecosystems of eastern Anatolia by setting forests on fire and constantly building dams in the name of the fight against terror, without the consent of Kurds claiming their different identity under the Republic’s umbrella.
It is as if the region is just a battlefield, not a piece of homeland; as though the region is not, and will not be, inhabited; as though the entire country will not pay the price for the environmental damage.
Environment chapter will be opened, so they say!
The minister asserts the European Union will open the environment chapter to negotiations by the end of the year. We are talking about 300 pieces of legislation, 80 of which are binding. Not even 1 percent of changes and renewals envisaged in the report prepared by the EU General Secretariat in 2006 have yet been made (see http://www.abgs.gov.tr/files/Muktese...i/27_Cevre.pdf).
What he is unaware of is that while he negotiates for the environment chapter on one side, he cannot swagger on issues such as Hasankeyf on the other. The main benchmark for this chapter to be opened for negotiations is to provide the European Commission with a comprehensive Plan of Action that includes a timetable, financial resources and the administrative capacity at national, regional and local levels for the adoption of the EU’s body of environmental law. And, of course, the seriousness of the action plan depends on the seriousness of the impact assessment.
If anyone is aware of the existence of such an action plan, please come forward.
During the screening process, the European Commission had noted the issues on which Turkey seems awfully inadequate, including its Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, dam constructions, waste management, its environmental-protection procedures, water quality and international conventions, in addition to EU framework directives.
International conventions and European Commission directives require a government to accept people living in regions that will be affected by big infrastructure works like the Ilısu Dam, as well as neighboring countries, as full-fledged interlocutors. The Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context of 1997 and the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters of 1998 are quite clear. Turkey is party to neither of them. Once party to these conventions, one must only look at the names of these agreements to make a wild guess about the consequences of the Ilısu/Hasankeyf issue and some other nonsense dam projects.
As for EC directives, Turkey automatically becomes an interlocutor of Iraq and Syria through the “Water Framework Directive of 2000 regarding the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers. Although the directive foresees cooperation among the EU members, its 35th paragraph makes reference to the “United Nations Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes.
Tough times ahead for our King of Dams the Second.