Turkey is proposing a major dam-building program, proposing at least 18 new dams along its borders. The government claims the multiyear, multimillion-dollar infrastructure initiative would ease tensions over water-sharing, prevent flooding, irrigate farmland and generate electricity.

On Feb. 6, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian Premier Naji al-Otari broke ground for the Dostluk Baraji, or Friendship Dam, on the Orontes River, which flows from Lebanon into Syria and Turkey. The dam, 580 meters long and 14.5 m high, is designed to create a reservoir large enough to store 115 million cu m of water. At an estimated cost of $28.5 million, the impoundment will irrigate 10,000 hectares of agricultural fields, prevent flooding and annually generate 16 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, which will be shared equally by Turkey and Syria, according to Turkish officials.

The dam site is two kilometers from the village of Ziyaret in the southern province of Hatay, according to the Turkish State Hydraulic Works (DSI). Syria and Turkey’s memorandum of understanding calls for another guidance document covering the specific terms of the dam’s construction. A DSI official with responsibility for dams told ENR that a consortium of Turkish and Syrian companies likely would undertake the project, which will go to tender as soon as possible. After five years of stalled negotiations and disputes, the project’s launch reflects the improved relationship between the two neighbors.

Turkey also is giving top priority to building a dam on the border with Bulgaria in order to prevent flooding from the Maritsa River. A tripartite meeting of the prime ministers of Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria is scheduled for March in the Turkish city of Edirne, close to the borders of Bulgaria and Greece. In 2006, Turkey and Bulgaria agreed to build the Suakacagi Dam along the Tunca River in the Maritsa River Basin but no progress has been made to date on the project despite the urgency felt by Turkey.

To the southeast, where it borders Syria and Iraq, Turkey proposes 14 dams, most of them on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. The structures would provide water and electricity for each country and improve border security, officials say. Further, plans are going ahead for construction of a dam with thermal and hydroelectric powerplants on the Aras River along the Turkish-Iranian border; those plants are expected to generate 16,000 MW of electricity each month.

On Turkey’s northeast borders, Armenia has expressed interested in building a dam and hydroelectric powerplant on the border between the two countries, a DSI official told ENR. A project to build a dam and hydroelectric powerplant on the Kura River between Turkey and Georgia is under consideration, he added.

Georgia is set to start construction this year on three hydro powerplants at Namakhvani on the Rioni River in Tsageri, western Georgia, for an estimated $1 billion. A consortium of Korea Electric Power Corp., Korea’s SK Engineering & Construction Co. and Turkey’s Nurol Construction & Trading Co. will build the plants. The three powerplants, with a six-year construction schedule, will have a capacity of 450 MW, equal to 13% of the country’s current electricity-generating capacity.

Further, in January, the Georgian government awarded a $150-million hydro-power project to Turkey’s Kolin Construction, Tourism Industry and Trading Co. to build a cascade of four hydro powerplants with a minimum total capacity of 105.7 MW on the Tekhuri River in the Samegrelo region of western Georgia. Construction will take four years.

Georgia is hoping to take advantage of its hydro-power potential in order to become an electricity exporter. Construction of a new transmission line to Turkey already has started and Germany-based Siemens Energy has won a $215-million contract to connect Georgia’s and Turkey’s electricity grids. Siemens Energy will install two turnkey, high-voltage/direct-current back-to-back links in Georgia to connect the Georgian power supply network with the grid system in Turkey. Part of the Black Sea Transmission Network project, the work is planned to be completed by May 2013.