Environmental governance and legitimacy of hydropower development in Turkey
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Mainly after the liberalization of the energy market, the development of hydropower in Turkey had rapidly grown. The so-called hydropower boom has been subject to many years of debate and controversies. While the earliest large dam projects served public needs and were developed by the public sector, the latest run-of-river projects were invested by private initiatives. Parallel to private investments, large dam projects were still in the government's policy agenda, aiming to develop the maximum techno-economic potential of rivers in Turkey. These projects are opposed by several groups from civil society, mainly local communities and non-governmental organizations and are accused of non-legitimized actions. This research aimed to discover underlying issues of hydropower policies in Turkey by comparing the most recent controversial large dam case (Yusufueli Dam) with run-of-river cases from Artvin province where a significant part of social mobilization has emerged. The area is located in the northeast of Black Sea, along with its mountains, valleys and river basins rich in biodiversity. A series of semi-structured interviews was conducted with various governance actors. To understand the sources of conflict, Environmental Governance Systems (EGS) framework by (Vatn, 2015) was outlined with its structures, namely key actors, interaction patterns, rules and resource regime. In line with the outcomes of hydropower policies on the national level, the case study was applied using the legitimacy framework focused on its implications at the local level. The framework allowed for discussion of the decision-making processes, environmental outcomes and distribution of costs and benefits. The main findings showed that the government policies fall short in considering and sort out local communities' concerns. The main sources are a top-down approach in applying the decisions, lack of transparency and accountability issues with local authorities, which are claimed to be under pressure from the central government. Consequently, the primary outcomes are compensation issues, livelihood losses due to decreased biodiversity, and damaged natural reserves valued by nature tourism potentials. Finally, an important note from the comparison of cases showed that the actors involved (private or public) significantly influence the perception of distributive justice. Despite the more significant impacts in terms of social and environmental losses, the publicly invested large dam Yusufeli case had eventually become easier to gain the consent of local communities and negotiate its outcomes. On the other hand, privately invested projects still hold the potential of high degree conflicts.