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Green Corner


 

 

 

An A-Z of the environment & issues

by Peter Hatswell

 

 

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Y is for Yusufeli

The sun throws many times more energy at this planet than we could ever use or collect. Some of this energy causes water to evaporate and fall as rain, providing a ready source for hydroelectricity schemes. Most of the sunís energy falls on sparsely populated areas like mountains and deserts which however is not where most of us would choose to live.

The conflict between energy recovery schemes and human populations is dramatically demonstrated in schemes like the Yusufeli dam project proposed for the Coruh river in NE Turkey. A UK contractor and the British Government had a major interest in the construction but serious concerns were raised over the damís environmental, human rights and cultural heritage impact involving the forced removal of 15 thousand people, threatening their livelihoods and ways of life and indirectly affecting a similar number.

Yusufeli Dam:  Linda HerzogThe dam was designed to provide 540MW of electrical energy with a relatively small carbon footprint but at the expense of 18 towns or villages which would have been completely or partly submerged. In addition, 3 historic churches and fortresses would have been lost and the wildlife, including threatened brown bears, jackals, wild boar and pine martens would have been driven away.

 

 

There is a World Commission on Dams comprising government representatives, industry leaders, academics with expertise in energy and water, respected civil servants and members of Non-Govermental Organisations (NGOs). This Commission has drawn up guidelines and principles on project sustainability to ensure that time and money are not wasted by governments and their contractors. Their recommendations were ignored in this case, which resulted in world-wide condemnation of the scheme and the withdrawal of international funding. It did not help that Turkey had already carried out 2 other major dam projects where contravention of international standards, lack of public consultation and resettlement problems left the displaced much worse off.

The project has now been officially abandoned but not before NGO legal action had forced the British Government to release the environmental impact statement and resettlement plans which confirmed the problems. This was important because much UK taxpayerís money would otherwise have been secretly spent on a morally corrupt and permanently damaging scheme.

Generally, energy saving projects may be economically justified but their environmental and social impacts must also be open to public scrutiny and the right to veto, particularly to those living locally.

 

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