The sustainable qualities of hydro electricity are well known and as Turkey has many fast flowing rivers, ripe for exploitation.

Turkey currently has 150 hydroelectric stations across the country. In 2008, the renewable energy accounted for 16.77 per cent of Turkey’s annual electric production. Future projections however, see a slump in the figure, which is attributed to a lack of rainfall.

Hydroelectricity is the most widely used form of renewable electricity and, under normal circumstances, provides a stable and reliable source or energy, not subject to market fluctuations, making it a popular choice with governments.

Hasankeyf in Batman Province, Ak Köprü on the Dalaman River in Muğla, and Atatürk Dam near Gaziantep are three examples of massive dam projects and for Hasankeyf in particular, the protests against plans by the Turkish Government have become global in scale due to the scale of destruction to peoples homes, environmental and historically unique sites.

Associate Professor Harun Kemal Öztürk of Pamukkale University said that Turkey’s expansive river systems, especially in eastern Anatolia are among a number of factors that make hydroelectricity an attractive means of energy production in Turkey.

“Hydroelectricity offers ongoing energy, unlike other renewable energy forms such as solar and wind. After building a station, the production and maintenance costs are not high.”

According to his research into renewable energy, in 2007 the 150 hydroelectric stations across Turkey accounted for 17 percent of the country’s energy output – enough to provide yearlong energy for Istanbul, Aydın, Muğla and Denizli together. Undeterred by the financial crisis, companies continue to invest in the renewable energy.

Öztürk said that despite the positives of hydroelectricity, there are also severe pitfalls in the technology. “The greatest disadvantage of hydroelectric stations is the collection of water that results in communities, towns, historical sights as with Hasankeyf [an ancient town along the Tigris River in southeastern Turkey] being submerged under water. The drawback of water in the river system also means that the ecosystem of the river is tampered with.”

Associate Professor Yakup Kaska from Pamukkale University, who runs the sea turtle rehabilitation centre in Iztuzu, near Dalyan commented recently, “A hydroelectric power plant is like a filter holding back valuable sediments vital for ensuring a healthy ecosystem not only along the stream or river, but also healthy beaches and habitats [including sea turtles] once it reaches the coast.”