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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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New Report exposes key deficiencies of Ilisu Dam Project

New Report exposes key deficiencies of Ilisu Dam Project - Fears that British government involvement could precipitate a major human rights disaster

Press Release: 24th November 1999


The Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) today published a damning report into the proposed construction of the controversial Ilisu hydro-electric power plant in Turkey.

The report, based upon a recent KHRP fact-finding mission to the region, forms part of the growing fervour of international condemnation of a dam-building scheme set to flood 68 small hamlets and villages and affect an estimated 25,000 people.

The dam will be built by an international consortium of companies, led by the Swiss company Sulzer Hydro. These companies in turn are seeking financial support from their own governments: the UK Export Credit Guarantees Department is currently considering whether to back the project. The Kurdish Human Rights Project believes that the support of the project would be tantamount to support for a human rights disaster in the making.

The report outlines a number of key concerns, the most pressing of which are outlined below:

Secrecy and the failure to release documents

  • A 1997 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) commissioned by Sulzer Hydro has not been released to the public, despite numerous requests.
  • Neither have two further reports, prepared in 1999 at the request of the British government as a result of major deficiencies in the original Assessment, been released to the public despite undertakings to publish them before a decision regarding UK involvement is taken.

The flooding of the ancient city of Hasankeyf

  • The 10,000 year old city of Hasankeyf, spanning nine civilisations and of particular cultural significance to Turkey's Kurdish population, will be submerged by the reservoir of the dam.
  • The delegation found that the dam is perceived by many to form part of the ongoing attempt to annihilate the Kurds as an ethnic group, by destroying their most important cultural sites.

Failure to consult with those affected by the project

  • Balfour Beatty, the British company forming part of the international consortium behind the project, openly acknowledges that the project developers have not consulted with the local population.
  • Local government officials have not had access to information about the project, nor were they aware that the dam has been officially approved by the government.
  • The delegation found that there was widespread opposition to the building of the dam amongst the local population. However, fear of state-led reprisals means that most protests to the building of the dam are largely silent ones.

The lack of a resettlement plan

  • There is no resettlement plan in place.
  • Documents obtained by the delegation suggest that 68 small villages and hamlets will be completely submerged, and 57 villages will be partially flooded. 25,000 people will be affected. This figure is significantly higher than previous estimates made by the project developers.
  • 19 villages in the reservoir area have already been evacuated at gunpoint. In some cases houses have been razed to the ground.

Failure to consider alternatives

  • No alternatives to the relatively expensive hydro-electric project have been considered, even though far more cost effective alternatives exist.

Water Wars

  • The report voices serious concerns about the implications of the construction of the dam for Turkey's relations with its water sharing neighbours Iraq and Syria - the spectre of a war over water in the Middle East is an entirely probable outcome.
Chairman of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, Mark Muller, said:
"Any decision to go ahead with the Ilisu project as presently conceived would be for political rather than economic or environmental reasons. The international community must re-consider any commitment of funds to a project which threatens to infringe the rights of so many, in a region already notorious for its lack of respect for basic human dignity."