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Turkish environmentalists criticize measures for ancient city

HDN | 8/27/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Alliaoni, an ancient city near Bergama in Turkey’s Aegean region, is set for inundation when a new dam in the area becomes operational. Now, however, environmentalists are arguing that a new decision to cover the site in sand – instead of silt and clay as originally planned – will result in the ultimate destruction of the architectural treasure

An ancient city located near the Aegean province of İzmir’s Bergama district will be covered with sand instead of silt and clay before being inundated with reservoir water from a new dam.

Despite a long-running fight by environmental activists, a preservation board has ruled after consultations with experts that the ancient city of Allianoi should be covered with sand before the waters of the Yortanlı Dam flood the region.

An initial project proposed covering the city with a silt-clay mixture, but a report prepared by experts from various universities in accordance with the advice of the State Waterworks Authority, or DSİ, said sand should be used for the operation.

The Allianoi Initiative, a group of environmentalists who banded together to spearhead a legal fight against the construction of the dam, objected to the new ruling.

Environmentalists argue that the decision will bury a rich repository of history and that the sand cover will not be enough to protect such an important ancient site.

 “A big group of workers were cleaning the site. They have started to get rid of the water; after this, we heard that students from a university’s restoration department will reinforce the walls,” Allianoi Initiative spokesman İffet Diler said in detailing the board’s preparation for the dumping of sand on the ancient city.

He also said they had been unable to obtain proper information about the developments.

The administration was hesitating in giving the initiative information, Diler said, adding that the site management had made changes to the file, including the decision to fill the city with sand.

Lawyer Hilal Küey said the board had acted contrary to the Turkish Penal Code when they changed the directive, deciding to fill in the ancient city with sand instead of silt and clay – as was originally specified.

The decision was a surprise, said Diler, adding that they would immediately go to court to stop the sand-filling. 

Geophysics engineer Erhan İçöz, also from the initiative, said the sand would cause huge damage because it would allow the water to come into contact with the artifacts, harming them. 

Meanwhile, Izmir Provincial Culture and Tourism Directorate head Abdülaziz Ediz said the program would be carried out by DSİ officials, noting that the legal challenges to the Alliaoni project had been completely settled. 

The Supreme Court of Appeals revoked in the past a decision by a local court that would have allowed for historical artifacts to be transferred from the area under the supervision of a scientific board. The initiative attempted block the execution of the transfer order, but were denied by the local court.

The hot springs settlement, which was prominent in the Roman Empire during the second century A.D., sits within the flood plain of the Bergama Yortalı Dam and will be flooded with dam water contrary to the desires of environmentalists, who have been trying to cancel the dam’s construction since 1993.

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