Construction of hydroelectric power plant scrapped after public protest

Construction of hydroelectric power plant scrapped after public protest

A woman activist holds a banner,

June 30, 2011, Thursday/ 17:00:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Construction plans for the Güneşli hydroelectric power plant on the Şelale River in Hopa, Artvin province, were abandoned on Wednesday due to public protest across the country.

Known by Turkish environmentalists simply as the "HES facilities," hydroelectric power plants are popping up across Anatolia to harness the power of water to create much-needed energy. These facilities create electricity on small waterways like creeks and streams. Operating costs are low and the HES systems are domestic, reducing Turkey's reliance on foreign sources of electrical power.

With plans to set up 1,600 HES systems in Turkey by 2040, it is expected that 8 percent of the nation's electricity needs will be met at that time. But when poorly planned, HES systems have devastating effects on surrounding eco-systems. Small local organizations and many environmentalist groups have started springing up to protest the reckless construction of HES systems, and their voices are gaining strength.

NETT Energy, the company that intended to construct the power plant in Hopa, told the Radikal daily: “We have carried out some serious preparations for this project. It was an interesting and expensive project. We had responsibilities to the public and we worked towards fulfilling these responsibilities. We had been working on this project for five years, and we did not have the opportunity to explain our plans on what we would do to not harm the environment. We couldn't conduct any meetings with the public. I was astonished when I saw how incorrectly the public had been informed about this project. The public and environmentalist groups did not even give us the opportunity to talk and express ourselves.”

This is the second time a company has had to abandon plans for the construction of a hydroelectric power plant in Turkey because of a public outcry. In 2010, plans to build a hydroelectric power plant on the Yuvarlakçay River in Muğla province were also abandoned due to public protest.

NETT Energy said it had informed the Energy Market Regulatory Agency (EPDK), stating that it had given up on its hydroelectric power plant project.

A NETT Energy official told Radikal: “This has also been a financial burden. We have carried out feasibility studies. We have carried out research to find out how we can construct this plant without having an adverse impact on the surrounding nature. Unfortunately, we were not given the opportunity to express our views. We are not running away, nor do we fear anyone. It was a minor project; however, it was becoming a symbol. This is the view of our company.”

Hopa Brooks Protection Platform spokesman Kamil Ustabaş said they were dedicating this victory to Metin Lokumcu, who died during a clash that broke out at an election rally being held by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Hopa. “The company did not end this project for no reason. It left it because of a democratic reaction from the public. Metin Lokumcu was among the symbolic names in this campaign, and we dedicate this victory to him,” Ustabaş said.

Ustabaş later said they were still wary of the construction of hydroelectric power plants.

“NETT Energy has left Hopa. However, it will continue its project in the Black Sea or Mediterranean regions. We are not declaring any kind of victory just because NETT Energy has left Hopa. Another company could come tomorrow and carry on from where NETT Energy left off. If NETT Energy is sincere, it should announce that it will not participate in a hydroelectric power plant project ever again,” he said.

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