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2000: British-backed dam threatens ancient lifestyle

The British Foreign Office has been severely criticised over plans to back a new dam in Turkey.

A report by the all-party Select Committee on International Development has expressed astonishment that the government is willing to support the 1.25bn Ilusu Dam project.

It is an 18-year-old scheme to flood large parts of the Tigris Valley in south-eastern Turkey to provide hydro-electric power.

But the Conservative chair of the select committee, Bowen Wells, said: "This is going to inundate one of the most sacred and most beautiful places of worship in Kurdish Turkey and exacerbate already bad relationships between the Turkish Government and Kurdish people."


"This is going to inundate one of the most sacred and most beautiful places of worship in Kurdish Turkey"

Bowen Wells

The medieval town of Hasankayf would be submerged and about 16,000 Kurds would have to be resettled. Some also fear that the diversion of water from neighbouring Syria and Iraq might provoke hostilities in an already volatile region.

Last December Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers suggested that he was in favour of granting export credits for a Balfour Beatty construction contract worth 200m.

The committee argues that the dam contravenes "almost every internationally agreed test" concerning social and environmental impacts.

As such the proposals are in direct contrast with the ethical foreign policy unveiled by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook three years ago.

The new report advises against supporting the dam project but the Department of Trade and Industry will not confirm its decision until the Turkish authorities have met four conditions.

The conditions are: that there should be independently monitored re-settlement plans; the saving of as much archaeology from Hasankayf as possible; control of water flows; and water quality.

In Context
The Ilisu dam was a key part of the $32bn Southeast Anatolia Project which was one of the biggest energy development schemes in the world to include 22 small dams and 19 power plants.

In June 2001 independent consultants working for the dam consortium published a report assessing the environmental impact of carrying out the plans.

It suggested that negative effects would outweigh benefits and little had been done to address environmental and human rights concerns.

British involvement in the scheme was curtailed in November 2001 after Balfour Beatty withdrew their interest and saved the British Government having to give a decision on export credit financing. /CPS:BOX>


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