Top Turkish court annuls environmental report over failure to inform locals

Top Turkish court annuls environmental report over failure to inform locals

İdris Emen ISTANBUL – Radikal
Top Turkish court annuls environmental report over failure to inform locals

Locals from Arhavi in Artvin celebrate on Aug 23, after the suspension of the construction of an hydroelectric plant planned to be built in the center of the port town. DHA Photo

Turkey’s Council of State has annulled the environmental impact assessment report prepared for the construction of the Susuz hydroelectric power plant (HES) in the Black Sea province of Artvin, arguing in a landmark ruling that locals were not sufficiently informed about the effects of the facility.

The ruling was adopted after a three-year-long juridical battle, Radikal reported on Aug. 26. Lawyers have stressed that it could set a precedent obliging companies to formally secure local villagers’ assent before the construction of hydroelectric plants, which often damage the environment as well as the local economy.

Locals of Artvin’s Şavşat district had objected to the construction on the Arpalı River of Susuz, which ironically means “without water” in Turkish, on the grounds that 28 villages in the area could be left without water due to a significant reduction of the water levels in small streams.

But Halis Yıldırım, the lawyer representing the villagers, has accused the company of submitting a ÇED report full of flaws “prepared on the desk.”

“For instance, the report said only three native species in the area were found. But some 15 plants were determined after the deficiencies were dispelled,” Yıldırım said.

He also said it was unacceptable for the Council of State to take two years before issuing a ruling on such cases. “If during this time frame a tree, bird or even a stone has been negatively affected by the HES construction, what’s at fault is the delayed State of Council’s decision,” he said.

The construction of the Susuz plant was suspended first in 2012 by an administrative court in Rize, which had demanded a new expert report. But the same court then rejected the trial on the grounds that the complaint was filed after the legal period, prompting the plaintiff to seize the Council of State later that year.

According to Yıldırım, the emphasis placed on informing locals could play an integral role in similar legal cases, as companies are often sued by locals concerned about the impact of HES plants on their region.

Artvin is among the regions most threatened by the effects of HES plants. Locals and activists have united in a number of cases to launch legal battles against the large energy companies responsible, which receive the government’s blessing for these projects.