A dam set to be completed in three years in the northeastern province of Artvin’s Yusufelidistrict will soon displace residents of the town and many of them feel worried about the change in social fabric awaiting them.
The government is building a new town full of apartment buildings for the displaced, but many locals say they prefer their current single family houses where they can “grow every kind of vegetable and fruit in the gardens.”
“We have a nice time here having our meals on our balconies and rooftops. In the new settlements, in the new apartment flats, we will have neither of these,” said 86-year-old Gülüzar Yüksel, one of the residents of the town of Yusufeli.
The town will be flooded by the new dam project set to be completed in 2021. The government is building a new town with 2,600 housing units located in an area southwest of the current district location. A total of 270 workplaces, four schools, one guesthouse and three mosques will be initially built in the new area.
Yusufeli Mayor Eyüp Aytekin has told daily Hürriyet that the district center and four adjacent villages will be fully submerged in the flood waters, whereas 16 other villages will be partially affected, once the dam project is completed.
“The new town will sit by the dam lake. Until now, a total of 3,180 people have applied for the new housing units. A settlement is being built that will host approximately 10,000 people,” Aytekin said.
However, many locals are anxious about how the new settlement area will affect their current lives.
“It is a good thing to block a free flowing river, to utilize it and to construct a dam. But, right now, I am having meals together with my neighbors on my rooftop. Will we be able to continue our neighborhood relations in this way in the new settlement as well? I have lived in Istanbul for 13 years. There was no neighborhood like here. No one knew about their neighbors. If the new settlement will create an environment like that too, it will not be good,” local Hamza Yazıcı said.
Another local Fatih Gedikli said the resettlement will cause the town to “lose its soul.”
“We had only succeeded in becoming a town in 50 years. Our new settlement cannot accomplish this in 100 years,” Gedikli said.
The town has already established a 25-member “transportation platform” for the upcoming settlement procedures, in which the mayor and district governor are included.
“We are evaluating towns that have already been resettled due to similar reasons so the same mistakes are not made here. We have gone to Hasankeyf four times,” Aytekin said, referring to the southeastern ancient city, which is soon to be completely submerged by the floodwaters of the Ilısu Dam and whose inhabitants have already moved out.
Meanwhile, a project has been launched to document the town of Yusufeli before it disappears. All of the streets of the town center as well as its adjacent villages are being captured by 360 degree cameras both on land and in the air.
Therefore, even years later, locals of Yusufeli will be able to go on a virtual in their old town with this system. As part of the same project, a city museum will be established in the new settlement area.