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Heritage before Hydropower: Petition to UNESCO on Ilisu Dam launched

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By Berne Declaration – CounterCurrent – ECA Watch Austria | , Mar 14 2012

(Zurich, Berlin, Vienna - 14.3.2012) On the occasion of today's International Day of Action for Rivers an international coalition of environmental and human rights organisations launches a petition to UNESCO to become active in protecting potential World Heritage Sites which are under threat due to the construction of the Ilisu Dam in Turkey. For the first time initiatives from Turkey, Iraq and Iran engage jointly in the protection of their natural and cultural heritage.

The transnational alliance speaks out against the destruction of the 10,000 year old town Hasankeyf, which would be flooded in the Ilisu Dam's reservoir, and against the severe impacts on the Mesopotamian Marshes and its inhabitants at the mouth of the Tigris river. They are supported by numerous organisations throughout the world, including Swiss Berne Declaration, CounterCurrent from Germany and ECA Watch Austria which have campaigned on the Ilisu project for over a decade.

Hasankeyf and the Tigris valley are a unique natural and cultural landscape. They form the livelihood for thousands of inhabitants. Even though Hasankeyf is under monumental protection by Turkish law, the Turkish government intends its inundation.

The Mesopotamian Marshes were included in the Tentative List of potential World Heritage Sites by the Iraqi government in 2003. The actual nomination process to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site has not been initiated however. Ulrich Eichelmann from ECA Watch Austria has recently visited the marshes. He confirms: "The impacts of the Ilisu Dam for the Mesopotamian Marshes would be devastating. If Ilisu is actually built, the garden of Eden will dry up and hundreds of thousands Iraqi people will suffer."

"Dams violate human rights, destroy nature and cultural goods and are not even climate friendly in many cases", Heike Drillisch, coordinator of CounterCurrent, states. These points of criticism are currently being addressed at the Alternative World Water Forum in Marseille. This event is organized to demonstrate against privatisation schemes and the destructive impacts of dams which are promoted at the World Water Forum taking place at the same time in Marseille. The petition to UNESCO is presented at the Alternative World Water Forum.

The petition and the list of supporters can be found at


Heike Drillisch, CounterCurrent and Berne Declaration: +49 177 345 26 11,

Ulrich Eichelmann, ECA-Watch: Tel. +43 676 662 15 12,

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