The Ilisu dam will affect up to 78,000 people, mainly Kurds, in Southeast Turkey, will have massive environmental impacts and lead to the destruction of invaluable cultural heritage. It breaches international law as the Turkish government has not consulted the neighboring states although the project will severely affect Iraq’s (and to a lesser extent Syria’s) access to water, and the vast majority of the local population strictly opposes the project.
Conditions attached to the approval of the Ilisu Dam by export credit agencies (other wise known as Terms of Reference or ToR) concerning the resettlement of local communities drastically fail to reach World Bank standards. Turkish resettlement and compensation laws were redrafted in 2006, however these too show serious deficiencies. As the ToR however are not imbedded into Turkey’s legal framework, any promises for income restoration et. al. made in the ToR that go beyond the Turkish laws, are not legally enforceable for the affected population. In addition, a sound cost-benefit-analysis of the project is absent, and benefit sharing mechanisms as demanded by the World Bank are limited to the construction of infrastructure and mosques.
Although the ToR take into account some criticism expressed by non-governmental organizations, basic information for a serious planning is missing regarding relocation, environment, cultural heritage. Therefore no authorities in any European country, neither the World Bank would even have accepted the project for appraisal. The environmental ToR clearly show vast contradictions and the unscientific manner by which the conditions were created: Despite key information missing from the environmental impact assessment, the ToR confirmed at the same time that no severe damages to the environment will occur. On the one hand, the ToR demand further studies; on the other hand there is no clarification about what consequences further studies may have on the project. The ToR’s conditions concerning cultural heritage protection totally ignore the significance of the highly valued cultural sites threatened by flooding, and above all, the ToR on riparian states do not adequately respect international law.
In addition to deficiencies recognised in the ToR, the analyses by the Ilisu campaign highlight deficiencies in the implementation of the conditions that have already become evident. For example the expropriation of properties in the first villages has already begun, albeit without the structures envisaged for determining compensation and the grievance mechanism as planned in the ToR being in place. Very low compensation amounts were offered to the affected people so the majority of them have already sought redress in courts. A central problem of the relocation planning is that the Turkish legislation on resettlement makes it extremely unattractive for the affected population to participate in a governmental relocation program. Most resettlers will therefore opt for cash compensation and relocate on their own to the big cities in the area. City mayors however have emphasized repeatedly that they cannot cope with the influx of new residents and a further growth of the slums is to be feared. The new relocation law does not correct this deficit. Moreover the NGOs highlight that out of the total relocation budget of USD 1.02 billion, only USD 25 million will be allocated for the income restoration. The remaining money will serve to compensate the small group of landowners, who possess the largest part of the land, and to reconstruct the destroyed infrastructure.
The non-government organizations therefore demand that no final export credit guarantee contracts will be signed and no credits disbursed until a comprehensive environmental impact assessment, a resettlement plan and a plan to save the cultural heritage have been completed in line with World Bank standards. Such assessment and plans must have been agreed to by the affected people and an agreement by neighbouring nation states must be reached before export guarantees can be finalised.