Villagers in southern Turkey organize festival for third year against hydro plant projects
The festival will be held on Aug. 16 and 17 in Boğazpınar.Locals in the Boğazpınar village in the southern province of Mersin are set to organize a culture and art festival for the third consecutive year on Aug. 16 and 17 to raise their voice against several hydroelectric plant (HES) construction plans in the area.
The struggle of the villagers began in 2009, when a first plant was built on the Öküzini River in the same area where two more plants are currently planned by the same company, the KTM Group.
Some 48 villagers opened a lawsuit in 2012 to stop the construction of the two plants, planned on the Karasu and Gökharman rivers.
The trial is awaiting the finalization of an expert report, but villagers have complained about the lack of political support in the fight against the construction of the small-size hydro plants that often cause irreparable damage to the environment. But villagers have also been harassed as no fewer than 15 trials were opened against them on differing grounds. One trial even centered on a song sung by the village’s children’s choir, pungently titled “Don’t build a HES or we’ll knock it down on your head.”
The spokesperson of the local platform against the hydroelectric plants, Ahmet Öztürk, stressed that the privatization of water had become a new “state policy.”
“We are fighting for survival. There have been many changes in our lives with the first plant built here. Water stopped flowing in the stream, which was before a picnic area. Its surroundings turned into a swamp and the number of mosquitoes rose sharply,” Öztürk told news website Bianet.
Locals said they intended to draw more attention to their cause through the festival. They also called for the sharing of experiences with lawyers and villagers who have undertaken similar struggles against hydro plants in their own areas during a forum.
“While we are trying to protect our living space, it has become obvious that the legal arrangements regarding the hydroelectric plants will not be in our favor. On the contrary, they will be made as part of a privatization policy that will bring results to our detriment,” the festival call read.
They also emphasized that more cooperation was needed to overcome the damage caused by hydro plant projects that have already been built.