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The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"It is the sort of report that does not come down one side or the other"
 real 28k

Broadcaster Mark Thomas
"I do not think the report actually addresses the core issues of human rights and conditions"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 20:28 GMT 21:28 UK
Hewitt consults on controversial dam
Ilisu dam site
Plans to build the Ilisu dam remain controversial
The highly controversial Ilisu dam project in Turkey would affect the lives of 60,000 people, a new report has revealed.

The UK government has been asked to support the project by British civil engineering firm Balfour Beatty, which has a contract worth nearly 200m for the project which is opposed by environmentalists.


A decision about export credit support requires very careful consideration

Patricia Hewitt
Newly-appointed Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt, whose department would be responsible for underwriting Balfour Beatty's contract, said she would now examine the report before deciding whether to go ahead.

She announced a public consultation on its findings which will run until September.

Environmental damage

Reacting to the report Friends of the Earth director Charles Secrett said: "Building the Ilisu dam would damage the environment, destroy historic towns and villages, abuse the human rights of tens of thousands of Kurdish people and threaten regional peace."

The Liberal Democrats have also called on the government to drop the project.

Speaking to the BBC comedian and campaigner Mark Thomas said Kurdish human rights groups were "very optimistic about the project not going ahead but slightly disappointed that the report does not actually fully address those issues of consultation and human rights."

The report's findings

Patricia Hewitt
Ms Hewitt said she would decide whether to support the project
The report found that construction of the 1.25bn Ilisu dam, earmarked for a site on the historic River Tigris in south-east Turkey, would leave nearly 30,000 people in a position to demand resettlement or claim compensation for expropriated land.

There is also the added political dimension that if built, the dam would cut the flow of the Tigris into Syria and Iraq, adding to regional tension.

The environmental impact assessment report was commissioned by the consortium planning to build the dam, but was carried out by internationally respected consultants.

It said that the dam would create a reservoir covering 300 square kilometres, of which around a quarter is currently first-rate agricultural land.

In all, 183 towns, villages and hamlets would be affected - 82 totally and 101 partially flooded.

Villages vacated

Of the total, 88 have been vacated already but 95 remain occupied.

The consultants also found that 43,733 people still live in places which would be totally or partially affected, while another 15,581 have already left - so in total the dam's construction would affect 59,314.

Under Turkish rules, some 28,200 people would qualify for resettlement rights or expropriation payments.

The report acknowledges that the dam's construction is likely to bring significant economic activity to the area, but it also acknowledges that the flooding will submerge many archaeological sites, notably a large part of the town of Hasankeyf.

The report's publication and the consultation period further extends the UK government's consideration of the project.

In December 1999 the then Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers said he was "minded" to grant the export credit guarantees.

But he stressed support would be conditional on the Turkish authorities addressing a series of environmental and social concerns.

Hewitt's conditions

Those conditions were endorsed by Ms Hewitt on Tuesday.

She stressed that export credit support would only be extended if she was satisfied that the environmental and social impacts were being properly addressed.

The conditions include an insistence that the Turkish government draw up an internationally acceptable resettlement programme, take steps to maintain the quality of the water and that they ensure an adequate of water downstream.

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See also:

01 Aug 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Time running out for cultural treasure
12 Jul 00 | UK Politics
MPs' anger over Turkish dam
10 Jul 00 | Europe
Refuge for Turkey's dam victims
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