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Turkish environmentalists trust law for Allianoi settlement

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 4/4/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Allianoi, an ancient spa settlement situated near Bergama in the province of İzmir, has been threatened by flooding from the Bergama Yortalı Dam since 1993.

Allianoi, an ancient settlement near Bergama in Turkey’s Aegean region, is at risk of being left under 17 meters of dam water, but a recent court decision has given environmentalists reason to hope the village will be saved.

The hot springs settlement, which was prominent during the Roman Empire in the 2nd century A.D., sits within the flood plain of the Bergama Yortalı Dam and has been at risk of being flooded since 1993. The Allianoi Initiative, a group of environmentalists who banded together to keep up the legal fight against construction of the dam, released a statement Saturday that said another court decision has gone in favor of the village.

[HH] Courts are preserving the settlement

According to the Allianoi Initiative, the Supreme Court of Appeals has revoked 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. Lawyer Ali Arif Cangı from the initiative told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review that the group members had attempted to win a stay of execution for transferring the artifacts, but were denied by the local court.

“The local court’s decision would have accepted the preparations and allowed for the flooding to begin, so we appealed it,” he said. The Supreme Court of Appeals revoked the decision based on the initiative’s argument that “the necessary precautions to protect Allianoi had not been taken,” Cangı said, adding that the original decision by the preservation board to flood Allianoi has now been totally rejected by the law.

However, there is one other decision of the board from September 2009 still in effect. “The construction work [at the dam] continues according to that decision,” Cangı said. “We heard a bid is being opened and the dam could start collecting water next week.” He personally does not believe it will be possible, though, because the initiative is waiting for a decision from another local court within a few days.

“As a result, there has not been a negative decision against Allainoi by the court yet. Despite that, there are still efforts the flood the area,” said Cangı.

According to Cangı, construction work continues at a first class archaeological site, and this is a major crime. “What the management is doing is nothing but covering that illegal act up, because if they were to accept it after this moment, they would have to start investigating those who have approved this dam and spent the public’s money.”

When asked whether the court decisions to preserve Allianoi could also save Hasankeyf, another historical settlement at risk of being flooded, Cangı said, “The decision is one that interests all dam areas that encompass archaeological sites.” He said a legal example could be made in favor of similar historical artifacts under similar threats.

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