Turkey will launch the first turbine of the controversial Illisu hydroelectric dam in southeastern Anatolia today. Dam construction began in
Turkey will launch the first turbine of the controversial Illisu hydroelectric dam in southeastern Anatolia today.
Dam construction began in 2006 as part of Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Project, which seeks to develop the infrastructure and economy of the country’s impoverished, Kurdish-majority southeastern region. While promising to generate an additional 1,200 megawatts of electricity, the dam has flooded a 12,000-year old city and last year forced approximately 80,000 Kurds to flee their homes, sparking local and international opposition.
As the dam interrupts the flow of water from the Tigris and Euphrates downstream to drought-stricken Iraq and Syria, it threatens to create water shortages and disrupt agriculture regionally.
Historically, both Iraq and Syria have experienced tensions with Turkey over its control of the water supplies that feed the Tigris and Euphrates, and in the absence of a water-sharing agreement between the three, Turkey could potentially ‘weaponise’ its control. There are already claims that Turkey has cut water flow into Syria, particularly affecting dams in northeastern Syria.
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