The Tigris, rising in Lake Hazar, a small mountain lake in southeast Turkey and that merges with the Euphrates River in Iraq is one of the most important water sources of the Middle East that eventually flows into the Persian Gulf in Shatt al-Arab. However, the Tigris River bed, in which many civilisations and communities have lived throughout history, is talked about today because of the dams and hydroelectric power stations (HES) projects that are built along it.
According to the data in 2015 by the Diyarbakir (Amed) Branch of the Chamber of Architects and ecologists, the number of dams and hydroelectric power stations (HES) was 39 through the Tigris River and its tributaries alone. Among them, 12 of which were already built, and 27 were planned. Unfortunately, as a result of the dams and HES’s operating in the region streams dried up this year, Mesopotamia News Agency reports.
There are 3 dams and hydroelectric power plants (HES) on the Tigris River itself. While the Kralkızı Dam, Dicle Dam, Ilısu Dam are in operation, an associate license has been obtained for a fourth dam, the Cizre Dam.
The Batman Dam is built on the Batman River, a tributary of the Tigris River, while the Ivme Bendi Dam is in preparation. Kulp 1 HES and Kulp 4 HES are located on The Kulp stream, another tributary of Batman River. In the upcoming days, the water is expected to be held back at the Silvan dam which was completed recently.
Many historical sites were flooded and thousands of people were displaced due to the dams and the hydroelectric power plant projects on the Tigris River and its tributaries, especially of course the infamous Ilisu Dam which was built on the location that included Hasankeyf, an ancient town in Turkey’s south-eastern province of Batman (Êlih) – that had enjoyed a history of 12,000 years of non stop human settlement.
A similar threat is facing the Geliyê Godernê and Taşköprü Roman bridges which also have a history of thousands of years. With the Silvan Dam, the two historical structures will be submerged under water as well.
“An area of about 177 square kilometres will be flooded under water when the dam begins to operate,” said Alican Cetinkaya Chamber of Electrical Engineers (EMO) Diyarbakir( Amed) Branch Co-Chair.
Cetinkaya pointed out that the Silvan Dam, like many dams built in the region, is constructed because of the war policies of the government in the mostly Kurdish populated regions of Turkey.
“There is no need for the energy produced by these dams in Turkey, a dam has an average lifespan of 50-60 years. But the damage it inflicts on the region is enormous. For instance, in 80 years at most, that region ( Silvan) will be a place that only produces slime and methane gas.” he cynically stated.
And also the destruction of the history of the region is as big as the damage done to nature.
“Geliyê Godernê, which will be flooded by the Silvan Dam today, has thousands of years of history.” says ecologist Güner Yanlıç. He talks about the history of the dams in Turkey.
“In 1950, an institution called the State Planning Organisation was established in Turkey. The most important feature of this organisation is that it worked for the survival of the Turkish state, which is based on industrialism and the idea of a nation-state. ”
“It’s aim was the forced migration of the populations in areas where Kurdish people lived, and these people became a cheap workforce in the big cities. It also aimed at destroying historical, social and cultural sites of the Kurds and the construction of a Turkish nation-state ”
“In its first project under the name of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP), the state planned to separate all Kurdish provinces with dams,” Yanlıç said, adding that the first example of this was the Keban Dam and then the Ataturk Dam, which flooded Newala Çorî, which was an early Neolithic settlement on the middle Euphrates, in Urfa Province, Southeastern Anatolia.
“Moreover, these dams paved the way for the commercialisation of water, making it more valuable even than oil, the villagers can no longer survive but the mass companies are taking over. Agriculture is now in the big companies’ hands with the help of these dams” Güner Yanlıç says.
He underlines the harm that these dams will cause both historically, politically, economically and ecologically.
“These dams are the largest diameter dams built in Turkey. It is specifically aimed at providing border security with Iraq and Iran and even imposing sanctions by cutting off the waters there when necessary. When you flood a valley bed, you end all living life there and cause microscale climate change. “