Before the flood: Turkey's new dam set to wash away past despite uncertain future

Source(s): Middle East Eye

By Kieran Cooke

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The town of Hasankeyf, about 80 kilometres upriver from the Ilisu dam, is 12,000 years old and one of the most ancient, continually inhabited settlements on the globe, once a staging post on the famed Silk Road.

When the dam’s reservoir is filled, much of Hasankeyf, along with some of its ancient monuments and Neolithic caves carved out of the banks of the Tigris, will be submerged under more than 30 metres of water.

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The Turkish authorities disagree, saying the reservoir will bring new tourists to the area, among them scuba divers eager to explore submerged ruins.

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Earlier this year, in the midst of the worst drought experienced in Iraq for 80 years, water levels on the Tigris in Iraq, downstream from the Ilisu dam, sunk to record lows.

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Academics writing about trans-boundary water conflicts meanwhile have used Turkey as an example of a "hydro-hegemon", citing the GAP project as a "prime example" of "large infrastructure enabling the capture of resources and significantly altering the nature of the competition over water to the advantage of the constructor".

Turkish officials however have stressed that they aim to ensure that the water is shared in an "equitable, reasonably and optimal" manner.

They also argue that the dam will allow the flow of water to be managed and controlled in a way that ensures it benefits both Turkey and its neighbours.

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