Environment ministry’s 'sly' decision slammed for opening protected areas to HES construction

Environment ministry’s 'sly' decision slammed for opening protected areas to HES construction

Environment ministry’s sly decision slammed for opening protected areas to HES construction

Alakır, which regained its protected natural area status thanks to the efforts of the activists, could be threatened again after the new decision.

Ecologists and legal experts have expressed their frustration with an Aug. 12 decision by the Environment Ministry, claiming that, contrary to initial perceptions, the move actually paves the way for the construction of hydroelectric plants (HES) in protected areas.

According to the new resolution, no HES can be built in natural protected areas of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree if a scientific report proves that they are home to endemic plants and rare species.

But experts said previous resolutions already banned the construction of hydroelectric plants in naturally protected areas, noting that the new decision created a loophole ending the specificity of any region that has enjoyed protected status.

They also said all the criteria enumerated in the new decision to prevent the construction of dams were the same for declaring a region a protected natural area.

“So why will this be reassessed? Then, who will prepare those reports and monitor them?” said lawyer Barış Yıldırım, expressing concern that from now on, hydroelectric plants could be built in any place in Turkey, regardless of their legal status.

“The sole purpose of this [resolution] is to pave the way for the construction of dams, even on natural sites that have the highest protection status,” Yıldırım told news website Bianet.

The Association for Nature (Doğa Derneği) has also slammed the latest move, arguing that it could potentially cause irreparable damages.

“This decision aims to destroy the foundations of many legal battles fought so far against hydroelectric plants. With this decision, the way for the construction of hydroelectric plants in many [naturally protected areas] such as Alakır, Fırtına, Fındıklı or Papart will be cleared,” the association said in a statement, adding that they were preparing to seek legal action to annul the decision.

The association also expressed concern about the impartiality of the so-called scientific reports. “We have seen in many cases that expert reports [devoid of] scientific accuracy and truth. It is clear that the reports and questionable assessment process that will be undertaken as part of this principle decision will serve the destruction of nature,” it said.

The decision comes on the eve of a forum that will be organized in the village of Boğazkere in the southern province of Mersin on Aug. 16-17 by local activists and with the participation of legal experts to plan concerted actions in the country.

The government’s aggressive policy of building hydroelectric plants on small streams that generate a very small amount of electricity at the expense of significant natural damage and socioeconomic impact has been routinely criticized.

Activists have repeatedly denounced the Environment Ministry for preparing biased reports on the environmental impact of such plants to allow companies to enrich themselves. A recent parliamentary report also stated that the construction of the plants was often not sufficiently monitored and that companies were not called to account for the destruction that they have caused to the environment.