British Engineering Company Withdraws from Ilisu Dam Project

LONDON, United Kingdom, November 14, 2001 (ENS) - Balfour Beatty, the international engineering, construction and services group, has decided to pull out of the controversial Ilisu Dam project in Turkey. The decision follows a thorough and extensive evaluation of the commercial, environmental and social issues inherent in the project, the company said in a statement Tuesday.

With appropriate solutions to these issues still unsecured and no early resolution likely, Balfour Beatty believes that it is not in the best interests of its stakeholders to pursue the project further.

The Ilisu Dam is part of a $1.6 billion hydroelectric and irrigation project on the Tigris River in the Kurdish area of Turkey, 65 kilometers (40 miles) upstream of the Turkish border with Syria and Iraq.

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Balfour Beatty CEO Mike Welton (Photo courtesy Balfour Beatty)
Commenting on the decision, Balfour Beatty CEO Mike Welton said, “Our determination to consider this project in a thorough and professional manner has remained consistent since we were first invited to become involved. We have followed all the appropriate steps to evaluate its viability and have not been deflected from proper, professional processes."

“The urgent need for increasing generating capacity to meet Turkey’s development needs and for social and economic development in the region remains. We have, however, clearly reached a point where no further action nor any further expenditure by Balfour Beatty on this project is likely to resolve the outstanding issues in a reasonable timescale.”

Italian builder Impreglio has also withdrawn from the Swiss led consortium which holds the contract to build the dam, Balfour Beatty said.

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The Tigris River at the ancient Kurdish town of Hasankeyf which would be flooded if the Ilisu Dam project goes ahead. (Two photos courtesy Save Hasankeyf Organization)
The International Development Committee of the House of Commons in the UK has written about the project, “The Ilisu Dam was from the outset conceived and planned in contravention of international standards and still does not comply.”

The project’s many problems have kept the World Bank from investing. Recently, the Swedish company Skanska withdrew, reportedly because the project does not meet international standards.

"Given the substantial difficulties which remain to be addressed, including meeting the four conditions set by the Export Credit Agencies, Balfour Beatty believes the project could only proceed with substantial extra work and expense and with considerable further delay," the company said.

The planned dam threatens to disrupt the flow of the Tigris River to Iraq and Syria. The reservoir created behind the Ilisu Dam would flood 52 villages and 15 small towns, and up to 25,000 people would be displaced.

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Tigris River near Hasankeyf
One of the towns to be destroyed would be Hasankeyf, a Kurdish town of about 5,500 people. Hasankeyf dates from at least 10,000 years ago, it has survived to date without destruction. A locally based campaign against the Ilisu Dam has worked internationally to publicize its concern that the dam might destroy the ancient town.

The International Rivers Network has been campaigning to stop the Ilisu Dam. In a statement last November the group said, “The Ilisu project violates all seven strategic priorities of the World Commission on Dams - gaining public acceptance, comprehensive options assessment, addressing existing dams, sustaining rivers and livelihoods, recognising entitlements and sharing benefits, ensuring compliance, and sharing rivers for peace, development and security."