Johan Frijns, Tel. +31-6-1242 1667, firstname.lastname@example.org, - http://www.banktrack.org/show/dodgydeals/ilisu_dam
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Today, following the ‘International Day of Action Against Dams, for Rivers and Livelihoods', environmental and human rights activists are staging protests in nine European cities against loan commitments by two Turkish banks for the controversial Ilisu dam project. With vigils in front of Garantibank and Akbank offices and other rallies they demand the banks' immediate withdrawal from the controversial project in the Kurdish Southeast of Turkey.
The construction of the Ilisu dam on the Tigris river would lead to massive environmental destruction and inundation of invaluable cultural heritage, including the 12,000 year old town of Hasankeyf. No resettlement land is available for the ten thousands of people that will be affected by the dam. The project also severely disrupts water flows to neighbouring countries Iraq and Syria, which have not been consulted in accordance with international law.
"On the International Day of Action Against Dams, we celebrate free-flowing rivers which give life to animals, plants and humans", explains Heike Drillisch, coordinator of the German network CounterCurrent. "The Tigris river is still a precious ecosystem which sustains the livelihood of many people. Once constructed, up to 85,000 people will see their land drowned by the Ilisu dam reservoir. In addition to this, the dam threatens the survival of endangered species such as the Euphrates soft-shell turtle. Who can bear this responsibility?"
"The cultural heritage that would be drowned is of utmost significance for the population in the region as well as for humankind as a whole", states Anna Irvin from the Kurdish Human Rights Project.
In Summer 2009, the governments of Germany, Austria and Switzerland terminated their guarantees for this highly contested project, immediately followed by a withdrawal from the project by the European banks Société Générale, UniCredit and DekaBank. Despite this withdrawal, the Turkish government pledged to continue the project.
In January 2010, Akbank and Garantibank pledged funding for the construction of the dam, making them the main target of today's protests as well as a string of actions prepared for the next weeks.
"In Turkey, AkBank and GarantiBank both claim to be committed to social and environmental sustainability. But such a commitment is meaningless if it has no consequences for the sort of projects a bank decides to finance" says Johan Frijns, coordinator of the BankTrack network."The Ilisu dam is one of those dodgy projects that can never be made ‘sustainable' and no bank should be involved in it"
"The well-being of the people, the nature and culture of the Tigris river must be sacrificed for the sake of private banks", demands Ercan Ayboga, European spokesperson from the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive. "The banks' decision to provide finance for the Ilisu project flies in the face of their environmental and social commitments. Without their loans the Turkish government will not be able to start the Ilisu project in the next years", says Ercan Ayboga.
Protests are taking place in front of the European branches of Akbank and Garantibank in Amsterdam, London, Frankfurt, Essen and Hannover. Additional protests are staged in Berlin, Zurich and Strasbourg as well as in front of the Austrian construction company Strabag in Vienna, which is involved in dam projects on the Munzur river in Turkey.
"The construction of the Konaktepe I+II and other dam projects on the Munzur River does not make any economic sense. A natural paradise, the specific Kurdish-alevi culture of the Munzur region and billions of Euros are sacrificed to produce 1 percent of Turkey's energy needs", explains Kiymet Ceviz from the newly founded Free Munzur Initiative in Europe. "We appeal to Strabag to immediately withdraw from these dam projects."
The ‘International Day of Action Against Dams, for Rivers and Livelihoods' is held for the 13th time on March 14th. Dam opponents in over 20 countries protest dam projects with a wide range of activities (see www.internationalrivers.org). In Turkey, a coalition of 20 dam critical movements have organized demonstrations and meeting against the Ilısu, Konaktepe I+II and many other destructive dams (see www.akarsuhareketleri.org). European campaigners followed on Monday, March 15th, as banks were closed on the original day of action.