The Ilısu Dam is part of the Southeastern Anatolian Project (GAP) and is currently the largest hydropower project in Turkey. It is located on the Tigris river. It will create a reservoir with a maximum volume of 10.4 billion cubic meters and a surface area of 313 square kilometers. The Ilısu power station will have a capacity of 1,200 MW and is expected to produce 3,800 GWh of power per year.
There has been controversial opinion held on the effects of building this dam both socially and environmentally. Certain NGOs and pressure groups have taken issue with some of the aspects. However, the facts are somewhat different.
· The Ilısu dam is not designed just for irrigation, only for power generation: The water passing through the turbines has to flow back into the riverbed.
· River water flowing into Iraq and Syria will not be polluted because the use of water for hydropower is non-polluting. Ilısu does not involve irrigation.
· As a result of Ilısu, new sewage treatment facilities will be built in the towns upstream, thus improving water quality.
· Ilısu will act as regulator holding back water during the winter floods and releasing it during the summer droughts.
· Claims that 15 towns and 52 villages will be flooded are misleading.
· Hasankeyf, a small town, is the only one affected, with the lower parts of the town being flooded. The citadel will stay above the water. Archaeologists and scholars from Turkey and several other countries are at work on a project to excavate, record, and preserve as much as possible.
· A comprehensive programme of settlement and compensation is planned. The total number of people who will have to be resettled is around 15,000. This means about two thousand families. They will be given the choice of whether they prefer an agricultural or an urban settlement. Contrary to allegations by certain NGOs, there are people of different ethnic origins in the region.
· Ilısu will have major environmental benefits. It will avoid the emission of millions of tons of greenhouse gases from alternative thermal power plants.
Finally, a development project means economic growth. In the case of southeastern Turkey, construction and additional electricity will bring higher income levels and new opportunities to an area which badly needs them.