06.11.00: Critical Ilisu
Dam decisions expected by year's-end
DSI's Altinbilek states that many dilemmas have been
faced during three years of negotiations -- technical problems, economic
problems, unexpected problems, including most notably the flooding
of the ancient site of Hasankefy Ankara
Turkish Daily News, 6. November 00
Turkey is evidently determined to build the Ilisu Dam, which is to
be located on the river Dicle (Tigris) as part of the Southeastern
Anatolia Project (GAP). It is expected that a decision will be made
within the year about bargaining negotiations on the dam's construction,
officials said. Energy and Natural Resources Ministry officials have
said that Turkey would start looking for alternatives if a certain
point could not be reached in the current negotiations. State Waterworks
Authority (DSI) General Manager Dogan Altinbilek stated that some
countries and firms who saw the negotiations as not going well are
hoping to get involved in the construction. The officials stated that
the initial cost estimates of $2 billion had fallen to $1.8 billion
but that Turkey still found this expensive and wanted the cost to
fall below $1.5 billion. The ministry officials stated that Turkey
didn't have any patience about the construction and that a decision,
either positive or negative, should be reached within this year. DSI
General Manager Altinbilek stated that the dam was expected to produce
3.8 million kilowatts of electricity. He continued: "Turkey will
have to carry out this issue either by adjudicating by itself or turning
the project over to other companies or countries volunteering for
the construction of the dam, if it can't be achieved with this consortium.
We don't want to heat up the competition, but there are some firms
which applied to us seeing that the negotiations remained inconclusive.
Turkey wants to realize the project either with these firms in some
way on credit or on its own. Turkey will have lost three years if
the negotiations remain inconclusive. We want to complete this project,
not waste our efforts."
Cyber Hasankeyf Altinbilek stated that many dilemmas had been faced
during the negotiations -- technical and economic problems, and unexpected
ones. He added that the most important of these was the flooding of
the ancient site of Hasankefy. Altinbilek said that a number of studies
had been done on the issue of Hasankeyf together with the Ministry
of Culture. Altinbilek stated that the efforts to make urgent excavations
after the historical significance of the site was determined and to
collect them in a museum afterwards were also DSI's handiwork. He
added that they were working on documenting Hasankefy in a cyber format
by preparing a computer CD on the ancient ruins. Additionally, Altinbilek
stated that the consortium was preparing an environmental impact report
for the creditor foundations and that this report would be completed
within a month's time. He added that he knew nothing about the contents
of the report.
: Human rights, environmental groups appeal to US to shun Turkish
By Nathaniel Harrison
WASHINGTON, Oct 17
An alliance of human rights and environmental groups
has called on the US Export-Import Bank to shun a Turkish hydroelectric
dam project, which they say will force the re-settlement of thousands
of people, damage public health, and endanger a Medieval architectural
A letter signed by 14 groups urged Ex-Im Bank chairman
James Harmon and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to halt
any further discussion of plans to back the Ilisu Dam project in southeastern
Turkey, which they said was "ill conceived and a misuse of US taxpayer
An Ex-Im bank official speaking on condition of anonymity
confirmed that the agency had received "a preliminary request for
a commitment" to support construction of the 1,200 megawatt dam on
the Tigris River, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) from the Syrian border.
The official said the bank has had the request for most of the year,
and was still waiting for additional information before beginning
an to evaluation.
The official would not disclose who had sought the
funding, or in what amount.
The US Export-Import Bank is a government agency that
guarantees loans for US companies that want to compete abroad and
makes loans to foreign purchasers of US goods and services.
The British government last December signaled its
willingness to underwrite some of the construction costs in response
to a request from the British firm Balfour Beatty for export credits
worth 220 million dollars.
The entire project has been estimated to cost 1.9
But the proposal has ignited a storm of protest from
environmental and human rights activists as well as from Iraq and
Syria, who accuse Turkey of monopolizing the waters of the Tigris
to their detriment.
In their recent letter, groups such as Friends of
the Earth, the International Rivers Network, the Center for International
Environmental Law, and the Washington Kurdish Institute have charged
that the dam is planned for an area of armed conflict where the Turkish
government is oppressing the ethnic Kurdish minority.
The project would require the forced re-settlement
of up to 34,000 local people and could negatively impact the lives
of up to 78,000, according to the letter.
"It is hard to imagine how the involuntary resettlement
of up to 34,000 local people and up to 78,000 potentially impacted,
mainly Kurds, will not exacerbate the human rights situation in the
area," the letter said.
The letter charged that the Turkish government, with
a "dismal resettlement record for other dam projects," lacks the resources
and the political will to honor international resettlement standards.
In addition, the organizations predicted that the
Ilisu Dam would inundate and destroy Hasankeyf, the only town in Anatolia
that has survived since the Middle Ages and considered to be an archeological
They in addition argued that the dam, which will flood
some of the most fertile land in the region, could increase the incidence
of malaria and schistosomiasis.
For further information :
Emilie Cornu Thenard, Program Associate, Center for
International Environmental Law, 1367 Connecticut Ave, NW Suite 300,
Washington, DC 20036
202.785.8700 202.785.8701 (fax)
Want to Know More about the International Campaign
to Reform Export Credit Agencies?
16.10.00 : Ilisu Dam Fact
Finding Mission : preliminary findings
9th-16th October 2000
In response to widespread international concern over
the cultural, social and environmental impacts of the planned Ilisu
dam in South-East Turkey, the Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) of Switzerland,
United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Austria, Japan, Portugal, Sweden and
the USA imposed four conditions that would have to be met by the Government
of Turkey in order for the project to obtain export credit support.
The four conditions, announced in December 1999, were as follows:
1. Draw up a resettlement programme which reflects
internationally accepted practice and includes independent monitoring:
2. Make provision for upstream water treatment plants capable of ensuring
that water quality is maintained: 3. Give an assurance that adequate
downstream flows will be maintained at all times: 4. Produce a detailed
plan to preserve as much of the archaeological heritage of Hasankeyf
To assess the progress being made by the Turkish
government in meeting the four conditions, an international Fact Finding
Mission of Non-Governmental Organisations from the United Kingdom,
the USA, Germany and Italy visited the Ilisu area from the 9th-16th
October 2000. The Mission met with affected people, prominent municipal
officials, lawyers, and local professional associations relevant to
the project. Throughout its visit, the Mission was followed by security
The Mission concludes that the four conditions imposed
by the ECAs have yet to be met - and that the prospect that they will
be met in the near future is remote. It will be pressing the ECAs
to refuse export credit support for the project.
The Mission's main findings are set out in a preliminary
paper, released today. The Mission confirms earlier concerns that:
. Conditions in the region make a fair and just resettlement
to international standards unattainable:
. Well documented failures of past and current resettlement
projects in Turkey, acknowledged by the Turkish government, have still
to be addressed in any substantive way:
. Doubts still exist as to the true number of people
who are potentially affected: . Consultation with the affected people
in the Ilisu area has been piecemeal, inadequate, biased in its format
and constrained by an air of intimidation. Some key consultations
which the Turkish government apparently claims to have taken place
have in reality not occurred:
. Host communities have not been asked to draw up
resettlement plans and their budgetary requirements have not been
assessed, in contravention of World Bank standards: . The adequacy
of the socio-economic surveys required to meet international standards
has been questioned :
. Lack of capacity and institutional fragmentation
render a coherent resettlement programme unachievable. Major institutional
reforms will be necessary before there can be any confidence that
resettlement will be carried out to international standards. There
is also a need to overhaul existing compensation procedures:
. Planned sewage treatment facilities in upstream
towns are inadequate to ensure water quality in the reservoir area,
either because they will not cover the entire population or because
they are still at the feasibility stage: . The downstream impacts
of Ilisu may be underestimated because no comprehensive analysis has
been undertaken of the cumulative impacts of both Ilisu and its companion
downstream dam at Cizre. The two projects are interdependent but have
been wrongly represented as separate and unconnected:
. Time and financial pressures on investigations and
salvage of the archaeological wealth of the affected area render such
rescue efforts reckless, haphazard and contrived. More important,
efforts to salvage archaeological resources are limited to artefacts
and cannot extend to the thousands of caves in the area, even though
the cave civilisation is the essence of the irreplaceable treasure
that is Hasankeyf.
The Mission comes shortly after the announcement by
Skanska, the Swedish company which had a 24 per cent stake in the
consortium that aims to build the dam, that it is withdrawing from
the project. The company told the Financial Times that the decision
resulted from "unspecified negotiating problems". It is widely held
within the affected communities visited by the Mission that the company
was unconvinced that the project would meet international standards.
For further information: +39.349.80 48 236 - www.ilisu.org.uk
Kurdish Human Rights Project +44.207.287 27 72
Sally Eberhardt Pacific Environment / CIEL +1.202.785 87 00
Emilie Thenard / Douglas Norlen Campaign " An Eye on SACE " +39.06.24
40 42 12
Antonio Tricarico WEED +49.228.766 13-0 Heike Drillisch
: Berne Declaration press release: 78'000 affected by Ilisu dam?
At 55,000-78,000, the number of people potentially
or actually affected by Turkey's Ilisu dam is much higher than has
so far been estimated. A long series of project-specific, economic
and political conditions must be fulfilled for the dam's resettlement
program to comply with international standards. These are the main
conclusions of an internal document on the Ilisu project which the
Berne Declaration and the British Ilisu Dam Campaign released to the
public on 7 September.
The Ilisu consortium has so far estimated the number
of people affected by the Ilisu dam at 12,000-15,000. A new report
by World Bank expert Ayse Kudat now puts the figure of people actually
affected at 19,000-34,000, and the number of people potentially affected
at 55,000-78,000. The report has been commissioned by the Swiss Export
Risk Guarantee, which coordinates a consortium of international export
credit agencies considering to fund the Ilisu dam. The Swiss advocacy
group, The Berne Declaration (BD), and the British Ilisu Dam Campaign
released the report to the public on 7 September.
Not only is the number of affected people much higher
than expected. Ayse Kudat's report also identifies a long list of
project-specific, economic and political conditions which must be
fulfilled for the affected people to be successfully rehabilitated.
The World Bank expert puts forward nine specific recommendations,
among which the employment of illiterate farmers in urban areas which
are plagued by rampant unemployment. Her report also indicates that
a successful rehabilitation is only possible if martial law in the
Kurdish area is lifted, and if the area profits from an economic upturn.
The document gives no guidance on how to address these issues however.
In a critique of the resettlement report, the Berne
Declaration points out that some of the conditions for successful
rehabilitation have so far never been implemented in practice. In
spite of this, the risk of failure lies squarely with the affected
people, particularly since the export credit agencies are not prepared
to make their funding conditional on the actual implementation of
the rehabilitation program. "While these agencies intend to guarantee
the risks of their exporters, no guarantees are given to the people
affected by Ilisu", the BD's critique points out. Ayse Kudat's report
mentions that "there are a large number of people affected by previously
constructed dams who are still waiting to be resettled, sometimes
for many years". In the past 30 years, only about 100 families have
been resettled every year. Commenting on the new report, Peter Bosshard
of the Berne Declaration says: "If the Turkish authorities are serious
about their commitment to international standards, they should start
with the problems which they have already created. In the meantime,
we will support the people affected by Ilisu in their resistance against
a dam which again shifts all the risks to them."
For more information: . Peter Bosshard, Berne Declaration,
firstname.lastname@example.org, www.evb.ch, ph. +41 1 277 70 07 . Kate Geary, Ilisu
Dam Campaign, email@example.com, ph +44 1865 200 550
21.08.00 : As Price of Progress,
Turkish Villages Are Flooded
August 21, 2000
By DOUGLAS FRANTZ, NY Times
SAMSAT, Turkey -- The minaret on the mosque was the
last trace of the ancient village to disappear. Years after the homes
and shops vanished, God's house stood as a mute witness before it,
too, slipped beneath the waters of the Euphrates rising above the
Ataturk Dam. Up and down the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers in southeastern
Turkey, villages inhabited since the beginning of civilization are
being flooded into watery oblivion by a vast dam system. For tens
of thousands of people, those who live in places of great archaeological
value and those in historically insignificant hamlets like Samsat,
a way of life is being erased.
The destruction is the price of progress. The Turkish
government is in the final years of its largest public works project,
an ambitious effort to quench an insatiable appetite for electricity,
irrigate arid land and bring jobs to this impoverished region.
The question being asked in Turkey, and with rising
urgency by archaeologists and human rights groups worldwide, is whether
the price is too high. And, as so often when modernization clashes
with cultural heritage, the answer depends on whom you ask.
For the planners, engineers and government officials
involved in the $32 billion Southeastern Anatolia Project, the answer
is a steadfast no. They describe the network of 22 dams and 19 hydroelectric
plants as the key to the economic revitalization of Upper Mesopotamia
and a vital component in satisfying the whole country's pressing need
"This was the least developed region of Turkey,"
said Olcay Unver, chairman of the project. "Over the last 10 years
its development rate has caught up with and surpassed the rest of
When completed in a decade, the project will irrigate
2,500 square miles of land and affect the lives of 6.2 million people
in the region. Government planners hope to build an export-based economy
to ship agricultural products and finished goods worldwide.
The plans also have political ramifications in this
Kurdish region. After 15 years of conflict and at least 30,000 casualties,
the army defeated the guerrilla group known as the Kurdistan Workers
Party last year.
Experts inside and outside government see the project
as an opportunity to win the peace, though Kurdish grievances extend
beyond poverty to issues of ethnic identity and equality, and those
cannot be solved by providing electricity and jobs.
The politics, like the rivers, do not end at the border.
Syria and Iraq have depended on the Euphrates and Tigris for millenniums,
and both have complained in recent years that Turkey is withholding
their share of the water. Negotiations are stalled, and now the dams
threaten to reduce the supply downstream.
Statistics and politics mean little to Fatma Seker,
18. Her evaluation of the project is made at the personal level, by
the money she earns in a clean, well-lighted factory, sewing T-shirts
for export to Wal-Mart and Bugle Boy. She makes the minimum wage,
about $138 a month, but the money goes a long way and she is proud
of her first job.
"We like our work, and life goes smoothly," she said
shyly from beneath a traditional Muslim scarf during her lunch break
at the Harrani Textile Company in Sanliurfa.
Sanliurfa is a bustling, dusty city of 500,000 about
40 miles from Syria. Its best claim to fame is as the place where,
according to Muslim tradition, Abraham was born and Job waited for
divine mercy. It is also the laboratory for the way the government
hopes to develop the region.
Per capita income doubled in the last five years as
water from the gigantic Ataturk Dam irrigated 500,000 acres on the
nearby Harran Plain, boosting the production of cotton, wheat and
Helped by a five-year tax exemption and other incentives,
cotton mills, garment factories and other businesses are operating
in the city's industrial zone and officials are trying desperately
to attract foreign investment.
The start is small but promising. For instance, at
the Polteks Company, 110 workers use the latest Swiss and German machinery
to spin cotton from the Harran Plain into yarn for export to Italy.
At Harrani Textile, 460 people, mostly conservative Muslim women in
headscarves, turn out 180,000 T-shirts a month for the American market.
Neither factory existed before the project.
A two-hour drive northeast, upriver from the Ataturk
Dam, the 4,600 villagers of Samsat have seen nothing of the prosperity
blooming on the plain. Samsat was an important stronghold in the Byzantine
era, controlling a strategic point on the Euphrates. Arabs conquered
the region in A.D. 640, and the Turks came later.
From medieval times on, Samsat was of little significance
except to the people who lived there. The occasional tourist wandered
in for a quick look at the ruins of a small fortress, but life remained
quiet and slow.
For years there were rumors about a dam. In April
1988, the authorities arrived from Ankara and told the residents they
would be moved out. They would be paid the value of their modest houses
and given new homes in a new Samsat, about a mile away, beyond the
reach of the 500-square-mile lake that would rise behind the dam.
When the time came, the villagers exchanged houses
of mud, with thatch roofs and no electricity, for solid new places
with electricity and plenty of water. They traded muddy ruts for paved
streets. Everyone should have been happy, but no one seems to be.
"In old Samsat we were growing many different things:
corn, melons, lentils, fruits," Fevzi Kural, 59, said as he sat in
the yard of his government-issue house with his family, threading
tobacco leaves onto string for drying. "We could work in many fields
and we were supporting each other. There was a vitality to life. We
are missing very much the old Samsat."
Occasionally residents walk to the lake and strain
for a glimpse of their past. More enterprising, or desperate, souls
borrow a small boat and row toward the memories. Until last year the
minaret was still visible to guide them. Now there is nothing.
As the muezzin called worshipers to afternoon prayer
at one of two handsome mosques built by the government in new Samsat,
men removed their shoes and paused in the shade of the portico. They,
too, spoke fondly of the lost village and complained bitterly about
the new one. The only jobs are in the tobacco fields, they said. The
government has brought no industry. We are forgotten. Asked whether
anything is better now, they answered in unison: "Yok. Yok." ("Nothing.
Nothing.") The scene evoked a Kurdish fable about the bulbul, or nightingale.
The bird was caught and put in a gilded cage. Despite the grandeur,
the nightingale cried every night to return to its nest. The demise
of Samsat, one of the first villages evacuated when the Ataturk Dam
went into service in 1990, caused no ripple outside the region. But
in recent months the imminent drowning of sites with archaeological
appeal has sparked an outcry across the world that Turkey is cannibalizing
its history. Some have even protested that the project is a plot to
wipe out Kurdish culture. Turkish officials shake their heads at the
criticism. In the past they were criticized for failing to bring
economic development to the southeast. Now they are criticized for
doing so. They also said that excavating and rescuing significant
sites had been a component of the project for more than two decades
and there had been dozens of digs. And in this crossroads of civilization,
where two great rivers have nourished life for thousands of years,
there are those who say some losses are acceptable. "You have to make
choices," said Toni M. Cross, director of the Ankara branch of the
America Research Institute in Turkey, a consortium of American and
Canadian universities. "If you are a politician in a democracy, you'd
better consider the living as well as the dead. I'm a classical archaeologist,
and I'd rather not lose anything. But I like having electricity."
Still, some losses must be mourned, and few sites in the region match
the breathtaking beauty and drama of Hasankeyf. The old town sits
below towering limestone cliffs on a sweeping curve in the Tigris,
east of Diyarbakir. The cliffs and surrounding hills are riddled with
5,000 cave dwellings more than 2,000 years old. Some are still occupied,
with numbers on the outside; one near the top sports a satellite dish.
At the summit are the ruins of two small castles and an Assyrian-era
church later transformed into a mosque. Far below, in the rushing
river, are the remains of a 12th-century bridge, once regarded as
the grandest in Anatolia. Six miles downriver is the site of the planned
Ilisu Dam, which will create a 200-square-mile reservoir and flood
about 80 villages in seven or eight years. With about 5,000 residents,
Hasankeyf is the largest of the doomed settlements. Government officials
say they improved the resettlement process after learning from mistakes
in places like Samsat. Residents of Hasankeyf are being consulted
about where to build the new village and what type of businesses and
crops might thrive. But the consultations cannot erase the fear. Some
foreign companies involved in the Ilisu Dam have expressed concerns
about the controversy that may jeopardize the dam's construction,
though it is unlikely that Turkey would cancel the dam, because of
its importance to the overall project.
Ibrahim Apalday, 25, grew up in Hasankeyf, swimming
in the Tigris and hiding in the caves, just as children were doing
one morning as he sipped tea in town. He now works in the family butcher
shop. Single and articulate, he could make a fresh start in Diyarbakir
or Istanbul when the flood comes, but he does not think about a new
"After we lose Hasankeyf," he said with a shrug of
resignation, "it doesn't make any difference where we live."
The New York Times on the Web www.nytimes.com
17.05.00 : Newly Found,
a '2nd Pompeii' Is in Peril Again
By STEPHEN KINZER ELKIS, Turkey, May 4 --
Here, as in several parts of southern Turkey, water
is rising inexorably around a doomed village as an artificial lake
builds up behind a new dam, part of the government's ambitious plans
to generate electric power and irrigate vast areas of dry land.
But in Belkis, the swelling waters are not just disrupting
lives or forever submerging long-cherished homes.
In the last few months, archaeologists have found
that an ancient city that once stood here holds what many experts
are calling one of the world's richest collections of Roman mosaics.
Much of it is about to disappear before anyone even has a chance to
"This is a real tragedy," said Mehmet Onal, the archaeologist
who is supervising a frantic effort to rescue what can be saved before
the site is inundated. "We've only excavated two villas, and we found
12 beautiful mosaics. There are hundreds of villas under the earth,
so you can imagine what remains to be found. The scale of what we
have here is really unbelievable."
"If we can have four months, we can pass the Antakya
Museum, and if we have two years we can pass the one in Tunis," Mr.
Onal said. The museum in the Turkish city of Antakya, which was known
in antiquity as Antioch, has this region's finest collection of ancient
mosaics, and the one in Tunis is considered the finest in the world.
The director of the government's energy and irrigation
project in southern Turkey said he could not assess the cultural value
of the site. The provincial governor said he was powerless to stop
the inundation of what he called "a second Pompeii."
If all proceeds according to plan, that leaves Mr.
Onal and the handful of archaeologists working here with him only
about a month before much of this site disappears. Every day they
are excavating and removing artifacts, not just mosaics but others
ranging from a five-foot-high bronze statue of Mars to 65,000 ceramic
impressions of family and official seals, more than have ever been
found at a single site. The mosaics, many of which depict scenes of
Greek mythology, are being lifted and taken to a museum in the nearby
provincial capital of Gaziantep. Two that have been uncovered in recent
days are still in place. Both are magnificently preserved and compare
in quality with those in great museums. One depicts Poseidon on his
chariot along with the water deities Thetis and Oceanus. The other
shows Perseus saving Andromeda from a sea monster. Each is the size
of a mid-sized room.
A few steps away from these two mosaics is an atrium
covered with dirt and fragments of Roman columns. Archaeologists believe
they will uncover another mosaic when they clear the debris in the
next few days.
The city that stood here 2,000 years ago, Zeugma,
was at the eastern edge of the Roman Empire. It had an estimated 70,000
residents and was the base for a Roman legion. Its position on the
banks of the Euphrates River, and its role as a thriving center of
Silk Road trade, made it immensely wealthy.
Rich traders competed with each other to decorate
the floors of their villas with the most exquisite mosaics. In the
third century, Zeugma is believed to have suffered an invasion, a
devastating fire and an earthquake in quick succession. It has lain
undisturbed since then, covered by thick layers of dirt and rubble.
Archaeologists have worked sporadically here for several
years but began concentrated excavation only last winter, after it
became clear that the site was about to be lost. They say they are
amazed at what they have found.
"We knew we were looking at some fine work, but suddenly
in these last couple of months we've realized that this is a major
world-class site," said Christine Kondoleon, curator of Greek and
Roman Art at the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts, who is visiting
ancient ruins in Turkey this month.
"Photos that have been coming out of there show that
the mosaics are very rich, very elaborate and truly extraordinary,"
Ms. Kondoleon said. "It would be a huge shame if we lose this site,
especially if we never even see what's there. The whole thing is really
upsetting because this is a great, great treasure."
Just down the dirt road from where archaeologists
were digging, a farmer named Abdulrahma Kizilirmak, who had lived
all of his 63 years in Belikis, sat stoically on a brick wall and
watched as the village slowly disappeared. He has heard promises that
he will get a fair price for the house he is losing, but doesn't believe
"I'm so mad I'm about ready to pick up a gun," Mr.
Kizilirmak said as he gazed out at a herd of cows grazing in a hillside
cemetery that will soon be gone. "We were comfortable and prosperous
until the government came. Now even old stones are considered more
important than we are. People are working to save the stones, but
no one's doing anything for us." The dam that stands just half a mile
from the site is part of the multibillion-dollar Southeast Anatolia
Project, which is a centerpiece of Turkey's development plans. Some
of the dams envisioned by the project's planners, especially one that
would lead to the flooding of the Kurdish town of Hasankeyf, 200 miles
east of here on the Tigris River, have become the focus of international
protest. Dams in places like Hasankeyf, however, are not yet built.
The one here is complete. Most of its gates were shut on April 29
to begin the process of creating the artificial lake whose water
will be used for power generation.
The director of the massive project, Olcay Unver,
an American-trained engineer, said in a telephone interview from his
office in the capital, Ankara, that he was not familiar with details
of the archaeological discoveries here.
"Unfortunately, all infrastructure projects are interventions
with the physical system, and in some cases that does affect cultural
or historic sites," Mr. Unver said. "The bottom line is to put in
a sincere effort to minimize loss. When that's not possible, you have
to take precautions either to move what's there, or at least to establish
a complete documentation of what is being lost." The local governor,
Muammar Guler, said he was powerless to stop the inundation, but added
that less than half of the site would be flooded, and that he hoped
the rest would be excavated and ultimately become an open-air museum.
"Besides, the dam only has a life span of 50 years," he said. "So
our grandchildren will be able to see the part that is being flooded
this month." Several of the mosaics that have recently been removed
from Belkis are lying under tarpaulins in the front yard of the archaeological
museum in Gaziantep. The museum's director, Hakki Alkan, said there
were plans to build a new wing to house them, but he conceded that
the government's apparently limited interest in classical art made
the project uncertain.
"We did everything we could to preserve the site,
but no one was listening," Mr. Alkan said. "The state has made its
decision. Energy policy is more important than cultural and historical
10.05.00 : An NGO perspective
on the Ilisu dam: VESTED INTERESTS AND POLITICS
In its April 2000 issue, the industry journal, International
Water Power & Dam Construction, is featuring a debate on the Ilisu
dam project in Turkey. Contributions are from Nigel Sloan (Balfour
Beatty) and myself. IWPDC also asked the Turkish authorities to contribute
their view, but for whatever reason, no text from their side is featured.
So far, the industry journal hasn't normally opened their pages for
IWPDC does not seem to have a website from which
the articles can be downloaded. My contribution is below. (It was
slightly shortened by the editors.) I will be happy to send you Nigel
Sloan's text by fax. Individual copies can be ordered from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter Bosshard Berne Declaration
An NGO perspective on the Ilisu dam: VESTED INTERESTS
By Peter Bosshard, Berne Declaration (*)
Turkey's power consumption is less than one sixth
of the OECD average per capita, and is growing rapidly. Does this
trend warrant the construction of dams like Ilisu regardless of their
cost? NGOs do not believe so. At a closer look, Ilisu illustrates
the serious social, environmental, political and financial problems
which beset many large dams. NGOs are particularly concerned about
the following features:
NGO concerns* Social impacts: In South-East Anatolia,
human rights are routinely violated, and thousands of villages have
been destroyed by the military. It is naive to expect successful resettlement
schemes in this context. Not surprisingly, earlier dam projects in
the region have an abysmal record of rehabilitation. According to
official surveys, 67-89 % of the people affected by these dams would
like to go back to their original villages.
The project authorities estimate that Ilisu will displace
12-15,000 people. They discount thousands of people who have been
evicted from their villages by the military, but intend to return
home after the civil war. They disregard thousands of others who will
not be displaced but will lose land. A report commissioned by the
British government estimates that in total, the Ilisu reservoir will
negatively affect more than 36,000 people. The creditor governments
have pledged to comply with World Bank standards when financing Ilisu.
Yet so far, these standards have been violated time and again during
project preparation. As the confusing figures indicate, the affected
people have never been properly identified. Even the local authorities
have only been officially informed about the project in December 1999.
No consultations regarding resettlement options or environmental impacts
have ever taken place.
* Environmental impacts: As the Ilisu consortium
admits, the new reservoir will bring waterborne diseases like malaria
to the region. The dam will also cut off the downstream areas from
the seasonal floods on which their ecosystems and agriculture depend.
Wastewater treatment facilities may prevent the reservoir from turning
into a toxic pond. They will however not prevent a shortage of oxygen,
a drop of the groundwater level, the interruption of the sediment
flow and the erosion of the riverbed in the downstream area
* Regional tensions: Turkey is well-known for its
aggressive water policies. "Neither Syria nor Iraq can lay claim to
Turkey's rivers any more than Ankara could claim their oil", President
Demirel stated bluntly at the opening of the Ataturk dam in 1992.
And further: "This is a matter of sovereignty. We have the right to
do anything we like." Consequently, Turkey was one of only three countries
which opposed the Convention on the Non-Navigational Uses of International
Watercourses at the UN General Assembly in 1997. In violation of international
law and of the pending Convention, Ankara has indeed made use of
its purported "right" and has reduced the regional waterflows in
periods of crisis since 1991.
Project proponents point out that more than half of
Iraq's Tigris water is from tributaries which are not affected by
Ilisu. Yet Turkey is now damming some of these other tributaries as
well. While Ilisu is not an irrigation project, it does increase Ankara's
clout to interrupt the river flow, and thus to blackmail the other
riparian countries. Furthermore, the deterioration of the water quality
has negative impacts on the downstream countries even under normal
operating conditions. In spite of these impacts, Turkey refuses to
inform or consult its neighbors about the construction of the Ilisu
dam, and thus violates bilateral treaties and international customary
law. As the protests from Syria and the Arab League demonstrate, the
project is fueling regional tensions already now.
* Economic viability: The Ilisu contract has never
been up for public tender. An attempt by the Turkish government to
implement the project on a BOT basis failed. In November 1998, the
Swiss government guaranteed contracts for the so-called Ankara gas
power project. At a cost of $ 380,000/Megawatt, this project costs
less than a third of the Ilisu dam, which the Swiss government considered
on the very same day. Rehabilitating Turkey's notoriously inefficient
transmission system would be even more cost-efficient. These figures
demonstrate that Ilisu does not make economic sense, and that more
sustainable - and emission-free - alternatives are available. Ilisu
is not a rational answer to Turkey's energy needs. It rather seems
to be motivated by the strategic interests of the government in South-East
Anatolia, and by the vested interests of the dam-building industry.
International standards - for real or for alibi?
As it stands now, Ilisu violates international law
and contradicts five World Bank policies on 18 accounts. The World
Bank has refrained from financing dam projects in South-East Anatolia
since the mid-1980s. In 1999, it even turned down a request from the
Swiss government to assist in the preparation of a rehabilitation
action plan for Ilisu. The Turkish government in turn refused permission
to the World Commission on Dams to independently evaluate the dams
on the Tigris and Euphrates. In March 2000, the Trade and Industry
Select Committee of the British Parliament also noted the "excessive
degree of secrecy" and the "deplorable and counter-productive lack
of transparency" in preparing the funding of the Ilisu project. What
is the reason for this secrecy if Ilisu is a rational investment option?
Since private or multilateral finance could not be
tapped, the Ilisu consortium has applied for funding from official
export credit agencies. These agencies are the last group of public
financial institutions which hardly apply any binding social and environmental
standards. In the case of Ilisu, they have for the first time agreed
to provide funding only if project implementation complies with international
standards. Presumably they refer to the relevant World Bank policies.
These policies are more than empty words. They require that alternative
investment options be considered, riparian countries be consulted,
and affected people be involved in a participatory process BEFORE
a project is adopted. Similarly, the stakeholder report commissioned
by the British government stipulates that "consultation/participation
with local stakeholders should be in place before (...) the contract
If the creditor governments are serious about their
commitment to international standards, the Turkish authorities must
go back to the drawing board. This would allow the region's population,
whose benefit the project supposedly serves, to identify and bring
in their own development priorities. Equally, the creditor governments
must be prepared to suspend their credits and guarantees if international
standards are seriously violated during project implementation. So
far, only the British government has agreed to accept this basic principle
of project supervision and accountability.
If the Turkish authorities and the creditor governments
are not prepared to raw lessons from their earlier experiences with
dams in South-East Anatolia, international NGOs will continue to oppose
the Ilisu project. Working together with representatives of the local
people they will call the responsible governments, companies and banks
to account for the human rights violations, the environmental destruction
and the breach of international law which these parties could foresee
but have not prevented.
(*) The Berne Declaration (www.evb.ch) is a Swiss
public-interest group which promotes more equitable and sustainable
: Turkey: London Times story on Ilisu
Oh yes, we're going to build the dam!'
As Western governments, including Britain's, consider
backing the controversial Ilisu dam project in southeast Turkey, Feature
Writer of the Year, Ann Treneman - accompanied by up to 41 military
'escorts' - discovers that the Kurds whose homes may soon disappear
under water have never been consulted.
Esra is nine, and a Kurd who lives in the beautiful
and ancient town of Hasankeyf on the Tigris river in southeast Turkey.
We meet by chance at the top of the dirt path that leads down to the
riverbank. The day has been difficult. I am here to find out what
people think of the Ilisu dam project, which will provide electricity
for Turkey but will drown this town and dozens of villages, too. In
London, Tony Blair is keen on the Ilisu and his Government has said
it is "minded" to provide $220 million in export credit for it. But,
then again, the Prime Minister has never been to this place and, therefore,
does not know what it is like.
If he came, he might change his mind. Freedom of
movement and freedom of expression do not seem to exist here, at least
for us. No one will let the photographer and me work in peace, despite
our shiny accreditation cards from the Turkish Prime Minister's Office
in Ankara.On this day we have been followed since 8am by three policemen
clad in black suits, straight out of central casting. It is now 4pm
and they have listened in on almost every interview. At one point
they chased me round an outdoor café as though we were in a comedy
sketch.So I've come to the river to escape and Esra has come to play
after a day at school. She is a breath of fresh air, full of grace
in an orange Plucky Duck shirt and a long swingy skirt. The river
flows strong and green and smells fresh here. I tell Esra, through
an interpreter, what I am doing. She tells us what she knows of the
dam. It is only an opinion but her face turns to panic when I say
that I might want to quote her.
The Men in Black follow at a distance as we walk.
Esra picks daisies and says that she wants to be a teacher when she
grows up. I think about this. Esra now knows exactly who she is and
how she fits into her world. Her family and friends are Kurds whose
families have lived here for decades, if not centuries. But the Ilisu
will change everything for them and for her. Esra is already vulnerable.
She is a Kurd in Turkey, and a girl in a man's world. The Ilisu puts
her in triple jeopardy.
Back in London everyone says the story of the Ilisu
is a complicated one, and it is true that the decisions about whether
it will be built involve huge sums of money and power politics. These
judgments will be made by people in London, Washington, Berne and
Ankara. They are experts in the fields of engineering, politics, finance
and construction, but none of them has been to this riverbank . .