The German government agreed last week on an approval in principle for the gigantic Ilisu dam, which shall dam the Tigris river in Southeast Turkey close to the border with Syria and Iraq. In the run-up, intensive debates had taken place between non-governmental organisations and the governments of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, which have been asked to provide export credit guarantees for the project. According to the German government, the controversial issues were resolved in negotiations with the Turkish government. Details on the negotiated conditions are however being kept secret by the governments involved.
"The Government’s decision affects at least 55,000 people and a whole region. It is a scandal that they could not comment on the alleged improvements", criticizes Ercan Ayboga of the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive, which unites over 70 organisations in the Ilisu region. Heike Drillisch, spokesperson for the German organisation WEED adds: "All over the world, the German government supports the dialogue between stakeholders, and for months has stressed the transparency of it’s assessment of the Ilisu project. But at the moment when it is essential that the affected population participate in decisions regarding their future, the Government refuses any further debate. This double-dealing is not acceptable and marks a grave breach of faith towards civil society organisations."
On December 7th, 2006 the German government published a statement regarding it’s approval in principle. However, the information provided therein remains vague and cannot be verified by the public. The consortium and project developers have already announced several times that the project is compatible with international standards. Non-governmental organisations like WEED have demonstrated that serious deficits exist however, each time that project documents were published.
WEED and the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive doubt that the concessions obtained on paper from the Turkish government will actually make the project environmentally and socially sustainable and bring it into line with international standards. As of November 29 th, 2006, the Iraqi water minister wrote to WEED stating that his country was not informed about plans for the construction of the Ilisu dam, although international law requires this and the Turkish government claims it had allegedly fulfilled this obligation. Also the implementation of the archaeological salvage works for the rich cultural heritage threatened by inundation is not proceeding according to plan: In August, this year’s works were stopped, although the tight time frame does not allow for any delay. Irregularities also have occurred regarding the expropriation of affected people.
The Turkish government is now required to conduct a series of studies and to meet part of the negotiated conditions. When this is done, the German government will decide on the final approval of the guarantee. ”Additional studies cannot change the project’s fundamental deficiencies (resolve the project’s fundamental problems)”, Drillisch noted in commenting on the German government’s proceeding. "Cultural and ecological values are knowingly sacrificed and the population is ignored.” Above all, the approval in principle has deprived the government of all means to address future problems that are not resolved by the current conditions. "The approval now granted is a completely wrong political signal to a government, which still needs to prove its willingness to meet international standards and which itself refuses the dialogue with the affected people and communities", comments Ercan Ayboga.
Further information: www.weed-online.org/ilisu
Heike Drillisch, WEED, Tel. +49 (0)177 - 345 26 11
In independent surveys, almost 80 % of the affected population voiced objections to the construction of the Ilisu dam. Even the mayors of the neighbouring towns have asked to participate in the project planning. Expropriation around the antique town of Hasankeyf took place, even though land titles were not settled, and the valuation of the properties did not follow the process announced in the resettlement action plan. Archaeologists doubt that the antique monuments can be transported to their destination in an archaeological park without being destroyed. The time limit of seven years until the flooding is totally inadequate for the excavation of the bulk of unexplored archaelogical sites. The Turkish State Hydraulic Agency has only 100 Mio Euro at its disposal for resettlement connected to all dams under construction. For Ilisu alone, 800 Mio Euro are foreseen necessary in the next seven years, but double this amount might actually be needed. Until now it is unknown how the necessary funds are to be provided.