“Clean Energy” Vs. Environmental Justice: Local Community Struggles Against Hydropower Plants in Turkey

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:30
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Özge YAKA, College d'etudes mondiales, Fondation des sciences de l'homme, France
Rapid growth of emerging economies often sustained by large-scale infrastructure, energy and construction projects at high environmental costs. The turn to renewable/clean energy is presented as a way to mitigate the environmental costs and carbon emissions and supported by global environmental schemes such as carbon trading. However, “clean energy” projects, such as hydropower plants, could also cause ecological destruction and environmental injustice, especially in developing countries, which bypass environmental evaluation and public deliberation processes. Turkish example illustrates the case, where private companies are given extraordinary rights to “streamroller normal planning restrictions to meet the target of 4000 hydroelectric schemes by 2023” (the Guardian). This rush to build hydropower plants results in a multi-dimensional environmental injustice that encompasses ecological destruction, economic deprivation, social dispossession, cultural assimilation and political misrepresentation. This paper presents the case of local community struggles against hydropower plants in Turkey that reveals both the social and environmental costs of emerging economies and shortcomings of global environmental schemes. One central element here is the interplay of national and global processes in shaping the local environment. The paper adopts an action-theoretical perspective, which focuses on the “social labour” (Kurasawa 2007) of local community movements, which disclose the interdependence of logics of growth, environment and social reproduction and challenge the expansion of the former to despoil both the nature and the society. The case study is grounded on an extensive and comparative empirical research and establishes an interdisciplinary framework that brings environmental sociology, social movement studies and critical theory of justice together.