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One year after Europe’s withdrawal from the Ilisu project: new hope for Hasankeyf despite restart of construction

Dodgy deals
By ECA Watch Austria | Turkey, Jul 13 2010

One year after Europe's withdrawal from the Ilisu project: new hope for Hasankeyf despite restart of construction

One year ago on July 8th 2009 Germany, Austria and Switzerland quit their contracts concerning the Ilisu dam project with Turkey. In spring 2010 Turkey restarted construction on the Tigris river. But now there is new hope that the ancient city of Hasankeyf does not have to be destroyed by a giant reservoir. A new study, presented on July 6th at an international conference at the renowned Technical University of Ankara, shows that the same amount of electricity could be generated in an alternative Ilisu project which would not destroy the historic town. The idea is to build five smaller dams instead of one mega-dam:

The benefits of this alternative would be:

  • construction costs would be lower
  • the area to be flooded would be reduced by 27%
  • Hasankeyf would not diappear in the reservoir
  • the same amount of electricity would be generated

It is still unclear if the Turkish government is de facto considering this new proposal as an alternative. "We welcome this suggestion by the University of Ankara. It shows that it is possible to generate electicty and to save Hasankeyf at the same time", said Ulrich Eichelmann from the Stop Ilisu Campaign.

The controversy around the Ilisu dam project has also lead to a change in Turkish civil society. For the first time many NGOs and citizen initiatives have united, forming a "Water Parliament" to stop Turkey's destructive environmental and water politics under the leadership of Turkey's environmental minister Veysel Eroglu. "Ilisu shows many people and organisations how important and meaningful their engagement is. Despite the restart of construction on site, ‘Ilisu' can be a milestone in the development of Turkish civil society", Mr. Eichelmann stated.


Summary of the most important events since July 2009

  • On July 8th 2009 Germany, Austria and Switzerland declare their withdrawal from the Ilisu Project, as project conditions were not fulfilled by Turkey and international standards were not met.
  • The three countries make a recommendation to the European banks and construction firms involved to also withdraw from 'Ilisu'. The European banks and construction firms follow this recommendation - with the exception of  the Austrian company Andritz AG. Turkey announces the continuation of the project.
  • In December 2009 we receive information on the possible involvement of China in the projct. However, in Spring 2010, the Chinese ambassador in Ankara clarifies that there will be no Chinese involvement in the project.Just recently a Chinese newspaper even critizised the project openly:
  • In Spring 2010 Turkey restarts construction in Ilisu.
  • Resistance: for the first time numerous NGOs and civil society initiatives in Turkey  unite and form the „Water Parliament". Their goal is to stop Turkey's delusional dam policies (Turkey plans to build over 1,000 new dams, which would lead to the destruction of all Turkish wetlands).
  • On February 10th 2010 the European Parliament demands in an resolution that Turkey  halt the construction of the Ilisu dam.
  • Beginning of April 2010 111 Scientists from University of Istanbul request that the Turkish government not build ‚Ilisu'.
  • On April 23rd Sabanci Dincer, head of Akbank, declares that the Turkish bank will finance Ilisu, but will in the future take the ecological and social impact much more into account when deciding about project financing.
  • Beginning of May an international workshop in Hasankeyf shows an alternative vision for the ancient town if there is no Ilisu dam. Also participating: the Technihal University of Vienna. Students of TU Vienna present their architectural concepts for Hasankeyf.
  • In June 2010 Austrian Andritz AG announces that they have signed new contracts with the government of Turkey. For a sum of 340 million Euro the company remains the only big European enterprise in the project.
  • End of June: numerous NGOs (‚Water Parliament') protest in Ankara against environmental minister Eroglu's water politics and demand his resignation.
  • On July 6th the Technical University in Ankara presents an alternative concept for the Ilisu project at an international energy conference in Ankara. If this concept were to be applied, Hasankeyf would be saved.

Ulrich Eichelmann, Stop Ilisu Campaign

ECA watch Austria Website

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