Damn project creates concern for residents facing displacement in northeastern Turkish town

Residents of Turkey’s northeastern province of Artvin’s Yusufeli district are facing displacement due to the construction of a dam set to be complete in three years, pro-government Hürriyet Daily News reported.

The government is building a new town comprised of apartment buildings with 2,600 housing units located in an area southwest of the current district location to relocate the residents, the newspaper said, as Yusufeli will be flooded by the new dam project slated for completion in 2021.

Another of 270 workplaces, four schools, one guesthouse and three mosques will be initially built in the new area, it reported.

Locals are frustrated with the new living arrangements being made for them, saying their single homes allowed for them to “grow every kind of vegetable and fruit in the gardens.”

“We have a nice time here having our meals on our balconies and rooftops. In the new settlements, in the new apartment flats, we will have neither of these,” the newspaper quoted 86-year-old resident Gülüzar Yüksel as saying.

The district center and four adjacent villages will be fully submerged in the flood waters and 16 other villages will be partially affected with the completion of the dam project, noted Yusufeli Mayor Eyüp Aytekin.

A total of 3,180 people have applied for the new housing units thus far, which will host approximately 10,000 people, Aytekin said.

Another local anxious about how the new settlement area will affect their current lives, Hamza Yazıcı said:

“It is a good thing to block a free flowing river, to utilize it and to construct a dam. But, right now, I am having meals together with my neighbors on my rooftop. Will we be able to continue our neighborhood relations in this way in the new settlement as well? I have lived in Istanbul for 13 years. There was no neighborhood like here. No one knew about their neighbors. If the new settlement will create an environment like that too, it will not be good.”

The Yusufeli Dam will be Turkey’s highest and the world’s third-highest dam upon completion, according to Turkey’s General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works (DSİ).

The cultivation of olives, grapes, and citrus fruits are among the driving forces of the economy for the town and surrounding areas that are home to some 28,000 people.