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Friday, July 03, 2009

Dam Controversy Continues

By Adelind Osmanlı reporting from Munich, Germany
(written in part with Serkan Ocak from Hürriyet Daily News)

After the Turkish Forestry and Environment Minister Veysel Eroğlu came out with the public message the government is determined to proceed with construction of the Ilısu Dam regardless of international funding for the project and opposition from environmentalists, in response to the German daily Frankfurter Rundschau Online's report about the dam last month, opponents of the project continue to protest that the flooding of the historic region will be a travesty.

Screencap of TTT's press release about reportAs Germany's major television channel, Das Erste's current affairs show TTT prepares to air a report covering Tarkan's campaign against the building of the controversial dam Sunday evening, the Turkish media reports that pop diva Sezen Aksu has now joined the ranks of celebrities signing up to stop the dam.

Reports, going by the spin that Aksu has joined the camps of those that "do not love Turkey", have quoted Güven Eken, chairman of the Doğa Derneği (Nature Society) organising the campaign, as saying that Tarkan and Aksu's support was no mere coincidence.

"This is a universal moment in which humankind is being tested ... we call everyone to support our campaign," he is reported to have said.

The proposed dam has drawn strong reactions from environmentalists because it would flood the lower part of a 10,000 year old ancient city in the southeastern region of Turkey.

However, Minister Eroğlu has told left-wing daily Radikal that construction will continue at all cost, inviting the petitioning celebrities to come and see him about the dam.

With the July 6 deadline nearing for international funders to give a final decision whether to back or drop the project, the government has announced that the ancient city will be moved to another location to save it from the flood, with Eroğlu stating the foundations for the new city would be laid July 20 to be completed by the end of this year.

"What has been done before today by those who 'try to protect the history?' Did they repair a place? Those people have no benefit [to society]. They all talk, talk, talk," Eroğlu said. The minister, however, declined to criticise the celebrities, who have participated in the campaign against the dam project. "They are well-intentioned," he said.

The minister added that 25,000 Euros have been allocated for the protection of historical monuments in the region, saying that although there are few tourists currently visiting the area, after the project is completed, it will be a centre for tourism.

Meanwhile, non-governmental nature society Doğa says it will continue to release statements in their campaign to stop the building of the Ilısu Dam, calling on the minister to heed the calls of the public, noting that the main responsibility of an environment minister was to ensure nature was protected.

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