12,000 Year Old Ancient Ruins Soon to be Under Water

By Julia Proctor
Turkey's 12,000 year old Hasankeyf citadel is shortly set to face destruction as plans to build a dam 50 miles downstream will lead to irreversible damage as a result of flooding.

The building of the Ilisu dam on the Tigris River is part of the Southeast Anatolian Project, Turkey's largest hydroelectric project to date. Construction of the dam will lead the Tigris River to rise 60m higher than it is at present. Consequently this will mean that 80% of the ancient city will become submerged in water. In addition to this, surrounding villages, and over 300 historical sites in the area that have not yet been explored, will too be submerged.

The dam is due to be completed within the year. The Turkish government insists that construction is justified by the future production of much needed energy, and irrigation solutions for the country that the dam will provide.

The Turkish government has set aside €1.1 billion of domestic funding for the project. Further to this, plans have already been set in motion for construction despite a court decision still pending from the European Court of Human Rights.

The town of Hasankeyf has been home to no less than nine different civilisations, thus the prospect of its destruction is met with great sadness. This is compounded by the fact that much of the town has not yet been explored. Its destruction would mean that the hidden secrets of the town will never be uncovered, and vital information will be irreversibly lost.

Still a thriving town, the people that inhabit it will have to stand witness to the destruction of their homes, land and livelihood. An environmental engineer from Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive, Ercan Ayboga, claims that 80,000 people will become displaced as result of the construction of this controversial dam. Ayboga also reports that due to the cost of relocating, thousands of these occupants will face poverty.

Germany, Austria and Switzerland all withdrew their financial support for the Ilisu dam back in July of 2009. This came about due to concerns that arose in relation to the social, cultural and environmental impact the dam would cause.

It appears that the construction of the dam will also threaten vulnerable and endangered species. This includes the Euphrates softshell turtle, the red‐wattled lapwing, the rare striped hyena, and many other rare birds, bats and mammals.

Ayboga, an environmental engineer, went on to state that “The Tigris river basin is one of the last areas where a river runs freely in Turkey without having been dammed. The dam will completely destroy the river banks... The biodiversity will suffer; the rich variety of plant and animal life will be severely diminished”.

The severe environmental consequences will not end with Turkey either, neighbouring Iraq will also suffer detrimental effects. Toon Bijnens, the International Coordinator for the Save the Tigris and Iraqi Marshes Campaign in Sulaymaniyah, explains how Iraqi Mesopotamian Marshes will also face harm. He states that ''The dam will dry up a considerate part of the marshes'', which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016.

It is a further blow to the Mesopotamian Marshes, which were severely drained under Saddam Hussein's regime, and the community that has only just returned to the area. People's livelihoods will again face being endangered, but this time as a result of the Ilisu dam.

Public meetings and protests are currently banned to oppose the construction of the dam on the Tigris River, due to Turkey having declared a state of emergency just over a year ago. In effect, the people who will be victims of the project have no way of communicating their anger and resistance concerning the dam, and its lasting impact on the region.

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