Since the 1970ies Turkey is implementing its so
called "South Anatolia Project" (Güneydogu Anadolu Projesi - GAP)
- a gigantic dam project developed for energy production and irrigation.
The Kurdish provinces Gaziantep, Urfa, Adiyaman, Malatya, Elazig,
Tunceli, Diyarbakir, Mardin, Siirt, Batman und Sirnak are the most
affected regions. All together 21 dams and 19 hydro power stations
at the Euphrat and Tigris rivers are planned having an entire capacity
of 8 000 MW with an annual production of 27.300 GWh. The whole area
irrigated by the GAP will cover approximately 1,76 Mio. ha (Hinz-Karadeniz/Stoodt
1993, Bosshard 1998a). The whole project costs are estimated at
$ 32 000 million (Bosshard 1998b).
For financing the project's components Turkey is
dependent on foreign money. And because the World Bank is not involved
Turkey is searching for alternative financial bakkers. To finance
the best known and most controversial project, the Ilisu-Dam at
the Tigris export risk guaranties are required. Last year the Switzerland
has agreed upon such an guaranty covering $ 300 million (of the
entire $1.520 milion). Companies have also applied for the German
"Hermes export risk guaranties". The following shall contribute
further arguments to the discussion held on that topic. The arguments
contributed are mainly covering the ecological aspect of the project
and are meant to avert this Dam.
Besides a few projects apart from the GAP shall
be touched to see them from the ecological point of view.
An other sours talks about 23 dams planned only
at the Tigris river, 5 of them being already under construction
2. Critics against the Dam Projects in
The project is being heavily criticised by many
sides because of its controversial aspects in means of regional-politics,
military, ecology, economy, social feasibility and human rights.
Filling up the reservoirs and the extensive use of the water for
irrigation will reduce the amount of water in the Euphrates and
Tigris rivers by 45 rsp. 10% which will heavily restrict the usability
of these rivers in Syria and Irak. During the filling up of the
Atatürk reservoir the Eufrat river almost dried up. Having at its
disposal these dams Turkey finds itself in the situation of being
able to politically extort Syria as well as Irak. For that reason
in 1984 the Word Bank decided not to be involved into the GAP (Bosshard
1998b). In its main parts the South Anatolia Project infringe upon
the 21.5.1997 - UN - Convention about the "Utilisation of international
water ways for not shipping purposes" (term translated from German
- nichtschiffbare Nutzungen).
Regarding its development policy and economical
goals as well as consequences the GAP is alarmingly. The main goals
are the increase in regional income, obtain foreign currencies by
selling agricultural products grown with help of irrigation and
secure the national energy supply by hydro power stations. These
goals - as seen by themselves - may be hardly practicable whereas
other demands that would make up a sustainable development of the
region are being ignored from the very beginning. An increase in
income is to be predicted first of all for the involved firms, the
Turkish elite and the regional big landowners. The general public
in the region will not be able to improve its economical situation
due to the dam project - on the contrary. The economical bases (area,
technical equipment, agro-chemicals ) needed for managing an intensive
farming footed on irrigation have on their disposal only the big
landowners. Small farmers with a rather poor basis of area and capital
as well as leaseholder can not afford even the basic equipment.
By pushing the regional agriculture into further intensification
the GAP fosters the increase of firm's sizes - small farmers and
land less people will loos their existence and will be forced to
migrate. The industrialisation, fostered by the GAP will provide
jobs only for a small part of the people migrating into the cities.
Many of the newly established jobs will be filled with specialists
from the Turkeys west. The projects export - orientation makes it
very delicate to fluctuations of the market. The planned amount
of agricultural products meats hardly a sufficient export market.
As well the production of energy by hydro power plants is relatively
expensive and does not guaranty profitability. Turkeys rather difficult
economical situation makes the predicted increase in demand for
energy questionable. Especially the ignorance to the ecological
and social consequences and their costs caused by environmental
damages and the migration of a large number of people makes the
whole project economically risky. A sustainable development of the
region, meaning the utilisation of the areas resources, the economical
improvement of the general public, especially the underprivileged,
and the participation of the affected people do not take place (Schindler
in Hinz-Karadeniz/Stoodt 1993).
The mentioned dam projects are a highly important
component in the so called "low intensity warfare". The Turkish
government tries to withdraw the foundations of the Kurdish liberation
movement by economical means. One part of the population will be
driven away from their home, the others may gain loyalty to the
Turkish state motivated by economical improvements like new jobs
etc.. The resettlement of native people and the settlement of Turks
from other regions will promote the assimilation of the Kurdish
population. As well the dams could serve as barriers for Kurdish
Guerilla (WEED) at the same time the resettlement of a large number
of people weakens the local backing for the liberty movement. Flooding
several historic sites of the Kurds according to many people from
the region is in a purposeful manner destroying documents of Kurdish
history. At the until now implemented projects the local population
could neither participate in the planning of the projects nor in
the planning of the moving. Compensations were only paid to land
owners. The majority of landless farmers came away empty-handed
and had therefor to move to the slums of (western Turkish) cities
or to abroad.
3. Environmental consequences of
Of high importance are as well the environmental
consequences of the dam projects. Rivers and their surrounding environment
are dependent and have manifold interactions. Dams are effecting
whole landscapes connected to the rivers. These effects affect first
of all directly the river and its valley (floodplain, closer valley),
secondly they affect the flooded areas, thirdly the surrounding
environment and fourthly the whole region of the new water body
(Hinz-Karadeniz/Stoodt 1993). Unteil now neither a systematic taking
down of the ecological estate of the region has been done nor were
the consequences for the ecosystems analysed (Meyer in Hinz-Karadeniz/Stoodt).
Only few aspects were considered in the launched EIAs.
3.1. Consequences for the ecosystems
The character of the rivers will change entirely.
After implementation of GAP 50% of the rout of Turkish Eufrat (750
km) and Tigris (325km) will be converted into reservoirs (standing
water). This will cause serious damages in the ecosystems. The substance
flows will changed dramatically. Input of oxygen will drop compared
to a running flow. Especially during the summer the system will
suffer from a shortage of oxygen. The self-cleaning ability will
radically decrease, eutrophic substances and pollutants will accumulate.
The (biological) associations adopted to running water can not exist
in standing water. Due to the regions natural lack of lakes (or
standing waters in general) it is rather unlikely that organisms
adopted to limnic environment may immigrate. Biological variety
will decrease drastically.
Of special delicacy is the interruption of the sediment
transport. In the arid region where GAP is being realised large
amounts of Sediments are washed into the rivers by heavy summer
rains annually. The dams will interrupt the way of the eroded material.
The reservoirs convert to traps for these sediments and will be
filled up within a view decades. Though in the scope of GAP measures
like reforestation to avoid erosion are foreseen the reality is
different. Almost all large wooded areas are being systematically
damaged or extinct by the Turkish army - allegedly to combat terrorism.
Forests are treated with herbicides, cleared off or burned using
fire supporting substances like Napalm.
The lack of carried sediments will cause erosion
of the river bed and the embankment on river sections downstream.
Within a short period the riverbed can be lowered by several meters.
This effect may occur on a stretch of several tens to hundreds kilometres
downstream the dam. Simultaneously with the lowering of the river
bed the ground water level in the valley will drop. Owing to that
the natural vegetation will be damaged, the agriculture could require
irrigation, wells may dry up. In cases of many large dams the phenomenon
of sediment shortage, that caused erosion in the estuaries of the
river was watched - so for example in the case of the Assuan Dam
at the Nil. The lack of transported sediments also alters the composition
of the material on the bottom of the river. The fraction of coarse
gravel may change which would damage sprawning grounds of several
fish species and take away the living area of many invertebrates
like insects, molluscs or crustaceans. The dams constructed by the
GAP project will significantly change and reduce the water outlet
downstream. This effect will occur especially during the flooding
of the reservoirs but also in their normal operation. The planned
irrigation of about 1,7 million hectares will draw considerable
amounts of water from the reservoirs and there upon drastically
reduce run off especially during dry seasons. The dynamism of water
levels in the river will be lost since peaks of natural water discharge
are used to refill the reservoirs. But this dynamism is indispensable
for lively alluvial plains. The associations of river environments
are adopted to the regime of the particular river. Main live sustaining
functions like reproduction, periods of resting and migration of
flora and fauna depend on that cycle. Seasonal floods fulfil various
ecological functions: they deposit eutrophic sediments and with
that fertilise the alluvial plain, they keep old river branches
open and refill wetlands and water bodies in the alluvial plain.
Also the ecosystems in the estuaries are adopted to an oscillating
supply with oxygen and nutrients. The change of these factors is
an important reason for declining yields of fishing at the coast.
Changes of the run-off-regime is threatening the continuation of
biodiversity of river environments far beyond the reservoir itself.
Cold water being discharged from deeper portions of the reservoir
into the river downstream may be damaging to organisms sensitive
to fluctuations of temperature. Dams act as barriers to migrating
organisms of rivers. The GAP projects do not provide for mitigation
measures like the construction of fish leaps (fish passes) as it
is a must in western European projects. Any migration of fish and
other species will be stopped. Above that, ecologically reservoirs
as being not moving waters differentiate heavily from vital rivers
- this will lead to a fragmentation of habitats in the rivers.
3.2 Changes of Riverenvironments / Riverlandscapes
By laying out reservoirs great parts of alluvial
plains and valleys are flooded. That upon cease the most manifold
habitats of the whole region vanish. Their ecological functions
with the biodiversity will be lost forever. Many different habitats
are affected: sections of the river with different flow intensity,
gravel and sand banks, bushes of willows and tamarisks, alluvial
woods, steep shores and rocky slopes, prairies, bushy areas and
woods at the slopes and a manifold cultural landscape with its meadows,
gardens, woody plants and fields.
Loosing the fluvial dynamics the narrow fabric of
habitats will be lost. Ecosystems that will adopt to the new conditions
along the shoreline of the artificial waters are not comparable
to those of natural lakes and rivers.
The flooding of cultural landscapes grown by millenniums
will cause considerable losses. Not only archaeological sights of
the region will be damaged but also farming methods, gardening techniques
and the genetical variety of useful plants will be extinct.
3.3 Changes in the surroundings
Consequences of large reservoirs for the surrounding
are hardly analysed. Changes of the local and regional climate due
to the new big water surfaces are very likely. Reservoirs influence
the insolation, the moving and warmth of masses of air as well as
humidity and precipitation. It is likely that the region will become
more humid due to evaporation from the big water surfaces.
In the surrounding areas of the reservoirs the groundwater
will persist at a relatively high level. If the capillary rising
of salty groundwater during the summer will not interrupt this may
cause a salinisation of the soil. That is valid especially in the
case if regular inundations, which wash out the salt fail to occur.
The south east of Turkey is one of the seismically
relatively active zones, because it is here that the Arabic and
Anatolic clods meet. The construction of large reservoirs in seismically
active regions is very risky and may even contribute to a higher
seismic activity (Meyer in Hinz-Karadeniz/Stoodt 1993).
3.4 Consequences caused by changing the land use
The land use in those by the dam projects affected
areas differ according to the region. In the region the rain - agriculture
without additional irrigation prevail. Besides the relatively intensive
agriculture performed by the big land owners there is still a considerable
number of small farmers (rsp. leaseholders) carrying out an extensive
farming. Wide areas with prairie vegetation are used as extensive
By implementing the irrigation projects and expelling
large numbers of the resident population and the traditional rather
sustainable land use methods sustaining the subsistence get lost.
A cultural landscape rich on cultured plants is meant to be displaced
by monocultures of the irrigation based intensive agriculture. Large
areas will for example be covered with cotton fields. Due to this
intensification the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and
heavy technique will increase - causing all those known effects
to the agrarian ecosystems. The extensive irrigation in arid climate
holds the danger of soil salinisation. The latter is usually avoided
by "rinsing" the fields and draining the salted water. This water
will again risen the mineralisation of rivers and lakes with heavy
consequences for the ecosystems and the usability of the water.
Storing the salted water would at the other hand form salt swamps.
Salinisation, wetting and use of pesticides cause
risks for the residents health. The air as well as the water would
be polluted. Desease causing agents (e.g. of Malaria, Cholera or
Leishmaniose) can spread.
The dam projects are as well meant to foster an
industrial development in the region. Land consumption and emissions
will devide the intact and coherent landscape to islands with negative
effects to the biological diversity, the quality of soil, air as
well as ground and surface water. The for the region typical low
environmental standard of the industry can be retraced from the
existing industries like cement factories, copper mines and oil
4. Results of the round travel in 1999
The named projects where visited by me and one of
mine colleges in august 1999. Main attencion during the travel was
paid to the environmental damages caused by the war against the
Kurdish Liberation Movement. Though we acted as tourists in the
region our freedom of movement was massively limited by the Turkish
security guards, often we were evidently shadowed. Visiting of small
towns and villages was usually prohibited by the security. To inspect
areas outside the towns and villages was as well hardly possible
- either it was prohibited by the Turkish security or the local
people intensively advised us against doing so because of the danger
of being shot at by the military. Thus all observations were made
quasi passing by or during short rests. Further, the season (august)
was not ideal to estimate the ecological status of an area. It would
be rather helpful to visit the sights in spring and to get the permits
for entering the areas in advance from the Turkish authorities.
This could possibly work in co-operation with the Turkish "Association
for Nature Preservation" DKHD, which in the past had several times
the opportunity to launch biological studies in closed military
The following reservoirs have been visited (content
of the full version):