Turkey's Alakır Valley saved from 'damming' development?
In a major win for Turkey’s natural treasures, the high court of Turkey recently issued an order to stop all hydropower projects in the Alakır Valley, an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) located at the heart of the Bey Mountains in Antalya. The court concluded that the Alakır Valley should be declared a protected area because of its great value for freshwater and terrestrial biodiversity.
The Alakır Valley is a possible range of the Brown Fish Owl (Ketupa zeylonensis), which is Critically Endangered in Europe; a new salmon species endemic to this small river basin, Alakır Salmon (Salmo kottelai) was recently discovered in the area; and a variety of threatened plants grow in the limestone rocks of the river’s basin. Despite this, eight hydroelectric dams have been planned or built from the river’s source to the coast (four are operational, one is under construction and three are in project development phase).
As the hydroelectric plants transport the river's water through pipes, only about 10% of the Alakır now follows its natural course to the bottom of the valley, which means a lot of wildlife is losing out on its main source of water and has already been negatively impacted. To make matters worse, the Mediterranean climate in the region is dry and hot, making the river all the more crucial for survival.
When the locals of the valley heard of the plans for the eight consecutive hydroelectric plants, they went to court against it. Doğa Dernegi (BirdLife in Turkey), has been supporting local volunteer group Friends of Alakır for more than five years in their legal fight to save this river.
Friends of Alakır (FAR) was formed by a community of volunteers that lead fully sustainable lives in the Alakır Valley while using grassroots activism to protect the natural wealth of the valley. FAR covers its expenses through artistic endeavours, including the sales of the music album Alakır’ın Sesi (The Voice of Alakır) composed by volunteer artistes.
“This outstanding decision of the High Court of Turkey is a result of the immense efforts of the Friends of Alakır lasting for more than five years now… it is great to see that we are firmly approaching the final result: the Alakır Valley becoming a natural protected area,” Dicle Kilic, the chairperson of Doğa Dernegi stated.
But the past has taught us to be cautious. Alakır Valley was approved by the state council as a Grade 1 Natural Site Area to be protected under law in 2014, but the decision was not registered by the ministry. As a result, developers continued their indiscriminate destruction of important habitats.
“We expect the regional nature conservation council of Antalya to immediately act on the decision of the court and declare Alakır Valley as a protected area,” Kilic said.