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Power projects in northern city hurt tourism

İKİZDERE, Rize - Doğan News Agency | 12/8/2009 12:00:00 AM |

The owner of the largest thermal facility in the Black Sea region says hydro plant construction constitutes a threat to tourism in the region.

The owner of the largest thermal water facility in the Black Sea region has said hydroelectric power plant construction constitutes a threat to tourism in the region.

Speaking at a press conference, Kasım Ekşi, owner of the Ridos Thermal Hotel & Spa, which started offering services in Rize’s İkizdere district with an investment cost of 20 million Turkish Liras, expressed regret at having invested in the region.

Noting Environment Minister Veysel Eroğlu had said hydroelectric power plants harming the environment would be stopped, Ekşi said a halt to such construction was now critical. “It is a must to annul hydroelectric power plant projects to save the area.”

Ridos Thermal Hotel & Spa was built one-and-a-half years ago on a hot spring in İkizdere’s Ilıca village, a place renowned as one of the world’s top five thermal water destinations with 4,600 minerals.

Ekşi said an environmental impact assessment had been deemed unnecessary for the hydroelectric power plant and that a request for a stay of execution had been filed against the decision not to carry out the assessment.

“We need a clear statement. There is a plan to build a hydroelectric power plant just 500 meters below our facility. The impact of the explosions expands to 3 kilometers, and this may lead to the disappearance of the hot spring,” Ekşi said.

“Our water comes from a depth of 260 meters. An underground crack occurring during explosions is a risk to the resource,” according to Ridos’ owner.

According to the General Directorate of Mineral Research & Exploration, or MTA, even agriculture is prohibited around the hot spring, Ekşi said.

“Despite this, the hydroelectric power plant was approved. The hydroelectric power plants built around the valley destroy the nature and [cause] damage. People have begun to stop visiting our thermal facility,” he said.

“The eastern Black Sea is the only place to breath in Turkey, and now it is facing the threat of destruction because of hydroelectric power plants,” said Ekşi.

[HH] Regretting investment

Due to the hydroelectric power plant construction, Ekşi expressed regret that he invested in the region. When they first started the construction, they had not been informed that a hydroelectric power plant would be built there.

“People come here for its nature, water and alpine meadows. If the devastation of nature goes on, the eastern Black Sea will lose its tourism potential within a few years. And we will also leave here,” he said.

“They should annul these projects. We are not against energy generation but here, the environment is facing considerable damage, and officials should investigate this issue. This region will develop through tourism, not hydroelectric power plants,” Ekşi said.

Citing the southern tourism city of Antalya and its development in the last 10 to 15 years, he said, “Today, rich tourists go to countries such as Switzerland and Norway. What do we lack?”

Imploring the government to change policies, he said, “The eastern Black Sea is the only place to be able to breathe in Turkey. Don’t let them destroy it.”

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