Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Saving Energy: At what cost?

There is nothing in life that is black and white - most times there is more grey matter. There is also a time and a place for everything. Is saving energy always a good thing? At what cost are we willing to conserve? What are we willing to sacrifice? Would you continue with energy conservation if it meant wiping out centuries of history? When they tell you to make sacrifices, I don't think this is what anyone had in mind. Just when you think you have it all figured out in your head (and you have that black and white answer), you come across something that makes you stop and think... : Hasankeyf is a millenia-old city, home to almost every powerful civilization in Mesopotamia’s archaeological record from the Western Roman Empire forward. It has been continuously inhabited until just the past two years. Now it sits in purgatory waiting for its own Great Flood.

The flood waters would come with the construction of the Ilisu dam, one component in a 12-phase energy initiative, the Southern Anatolia Project (Güneydoğu Anadolu Projesi, or GAP). The GAP involves damming the Tigris and the Euphrates (an idea originally conceived by ruler Atatürk in the 1930s) to produce “clean” energy, new jobs, irrigation and agroindustry, and with those things, regional economic growth. The first of GAP’s 22 dams was completed in 1987. Ilisu Dam, named for Ilisu town, was conceived in the ’50s and designed by 1982. A master plan for the dam unfolded in the last two decades. Its ETA changes as fickle or anxious investors come and go. In the meantime, the inhabitants in the predominantly Kurdish region that will be submerged upon the dam’s completion are treading water while they await news.

Achieving the energy and development goals of the GAP could help pull Turkey out from under its “developing nation” reputation and into the modern world—maybe even into the E.U. But the cost of progress in the case of Ilisu—drowning myriad priceless archaeological sites and ancient monuments, destroying an ecosystem, and disrupting the lives of tens of thousands of people—reflects the conflicts between development and preservation, energy and environmentalism, modernity and heritage.

A view of the El Rizk mosque, built by the Ayyubids in 1325, in Hasankeyf. Authorities estimate that flood waters from the Ilisu Dam will reach to 3/4 the height of its minaret.

If you want to read more about this, click on these links
Making Waves
Village of the Dammed
Bridging the GAP

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