Turkey's Ilisu dam halted

By Richard High07 January 2009

Construction of Turkey's Ilisu dam has been halted following the withdrawal of export credit guarantees jointly pledged by Germany, Austria and Switzerland because Turkey failed to abide by promises to protect the region's inhabitants, environment and cultural heritage.

The consortium of insurers - Euler Hermes Kreditversicherung (Germany), Oesterreichische Kontrollbank (Austria), Schweizerische Exportrisikoversicherung (Switzerland) - ordered suppliers to suspend working on the € 450 million dam for 180 days saying it failed to meet 150 standards set by their governments and the World Bank.

The German, Austrian and Swiss governments said the dam, due for completion in 2013, must meet about 150 conditions affecting the environment, relocation, cultural heritage and neighbouring states.

Situated on the Tigris River in Turkey's under-developed south-east, environmentalists, heritage organisations and human rights groups claimed it would have meant the loss of around 80 towns, villages and hamlets and the destruction of large areas of farmland.

Archaeologists claimed the project would flood ruins from ancient Mesopotamia in the town of Hasankeyf and other sites.

The Turkish Government maintains the project, part of a wider network of dams, known as the South-eastern Anatolia Project (GAP) and first mooted in 1980, is vital to the region's economic prosperity.

Euler Hermes is majority-owned by Germany's Allianz, while the Swiss and Austrian institutions are state-owned .

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