Dinner Table Conversation: Build A Dam Or Save A City?

November 1, 2019

Tough question, right? Before we share what one country did, we have to ask the question: What’s the purpose of a dam in the first place? Dams are built to keep large bodies of water from flowing into places, and the water collected in these reservoirs serve many purposes, such as providing water for the people living nearby and for irrigation. Dams can also help generate electricity that powers homes and businesses.

Hasankeyf. No machine-readable author provided. Bertilvidet~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]
Some cities have been around for a long, long time and serve as historical landmarks of the past. In Turkey, there’s such a place called Hasankeyf, considered one of the oldest cities on Earth with evidence that people lived there as far back as 12,000 years ago. It is considered an ancient city filled with thousands of caves, tombs, churches, and artifacts, and approximately 3,000 people still call it home. Recently, the residents of Hasankeyf had to move to a newly-built residential area called New Hasankeyf because the government needed to flood the city in order to build out a dam. Despite protests from the residents arguing that their city should be preserved and environmentalists saying that ecosystems would be devastated by the flooding, the government moved forward. Their argument? The Ilisu Dam will generate approximately 4,200 gigawatt hours of electricity every year and provide power to more than a million homes. Furthermore, the government built a new residential area for the people of Hasankeyf to address the needs of the people and moved important artifacts to this new location. By the time the dam is completed, 199 settlements will have been flooded and approximately 80,000 people will have been displaced. Is Turkey doing the right thing? Does it make sense to choose a dam over preserving an ancient city? What do you think?