Allianoi Ancient City and Yortanli Dam, Turkey


The Turkish State Hydraulic Works devised a plan in 1994 to dam the Ilya River with Yortanli Dam, creating a reservoir in order to increase agricultural productivity in the region. Yortanl Dam was constructed for irrigation purposes and the ancient ruins and Roman spa of Allianoi was discovered when routine excavation on the proposed dam site took place, in 1998. The site dates as far back as the second century and features exquisite architecture, mosaics and sculptures. Despite pleas from archaeologists, environmental groups and the European Union, the Turkish government went ahead with the proposed flooding and although several court cases were won, Allianoi was submerged by dam waters on 31.12.2010 by getting around the law.

Basic Data
NameAllianoi Ancient City and Yortanli Dam, Turkey
SiteBergama, Pasailicasi
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe Yortanli dam will irrigate almost 8,000 hectares of land and benefit farm families in the region. Fed with the extra water, fields that presently produce single crops of cotton, tobacco and melons is expected to yield several harvests a year.
Project Area (in hectares)8000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population300-400 (Nearby village population who migrated)
Start Date12/1999
Company Names or State EnterprisesThe General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works (DSI in Turkish acronym) from Turkey
Ozdemir Construction Company from Turkey
Relevant government actorsThe General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAssociation of Archaeology and Archaeologists, The Chamber of Architects, Izmir Bar Association, The Chamber of City Planners etc., International Council on Monuments and Sites, UNESCO, Europa Nostra
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Trade Chambers, The Scientific Board of the excavation
Forms of MobilizationBoycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Genetic contamination, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases
OtherWiping out the hot spa that was used for health purposes
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood
Other- Reduced access to water

- Loss of cultural heritage, historical monuments

- The Extinction of a cultural heritage that is of universal value.
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of AlternativesTwo alternative projects were brought forth:

1. Changing the location of the dams axis.

2. Preservation of Allianoi within the dams lake

While these were possible, Allianoi is still submerged. The justification was that these proposed projects would have been too expensive.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Awareness was raised about the preservation of cultural heritage though the site was flooded at the end.
Sources and Materials

It was intended to submerge the ancient ruins under dam waters on the basis of a resolution. However two issued resolutions were cancelled by the Council of State. On the third resolution Allianoi was submerged before the court case resulted.
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Submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
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CounterCurrent GegenStromung 'Dam construction in Turkey and its impact on economic, cultural and social rights'


City of Allianoi
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Harriyet Daily News
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Sundays Zaman
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The Guardian
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Europa Nostra
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Around 45.000 press clippings, interviews, conference and panel recordings can be accessed through internet search engines.

Media Links

Video documentary by photographer Mehmet Gungor,
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Other CommentsFollowing the referendum on the constitutional change of 12.09.2010, which brought many changed in the judiciary structure of the courts, even won cases have nearly been taken back by the courts concerning environmental lawsuits. This situation seriously reappears, especially in the case of Allianoi and other hydroelectric power plants.
Meta Information
ContributorBogazici University EJOLT Team
Last update21/11/2016