Turkey will launch the first turbine in Ilisu Dam in southeast Turkey next week, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday following a weekly cabinet meeting.
“We will start operating one of six turbines of Ilisu Dam, one of the largest irrigation and energy projects in our country, on May 19,” Erdogan said in a speech to the public.
The dam, approved by the Turkish government in 1997 to generate electricity for the region, uproots some 80,000 people from 199 villages and has alarmed authorities in neighboring Iraq, who fear the impact on their water supplies from the Tigris river.
After years of setbacks and delays Turkey started filling the dam in July. Activists who have campaigned against the project have called for the dam to be emptied citing environmental and cultural concerns.
They warn the project will drown the 10,000 year-old city of Hasankeyf and destroy valuable biodiversity.
The Ilisu Dam will generate 1,200 megawatts of electricity, making it Turkey’s fourth-largest dam in terms of energy production.