Turkish dam project scrapped, but pipeline gets go-ahead

Hasankeyf in Turkey
The proposed dam threatened wildlife, ecosystems and Hasankeyf, one of the oldest settlements in Mesopotamia
Turkey's plans for a hydroelectric dam on the Tigris have been scrapped as Europe withdraws funds for a failure to meet environmental obligations, while plans for the trans-Europe Nabucco gas pipeline are ratified

A controversial hydroelectric dam project in Turkey has lost European funding as a result of a failure to meet social and environmental targets, while a pipeline to reduce dependence on Russian gas has been given the go-ahead.

Export credit guarantees from Germany, Austria and Switzerland were withdrawn for the €2.1 billion Ilisu dam on the Tigris river, whose construction would have meant the loss of 80 villages and the destruction of archaeological ruins.

Cancelling the €45 million loan, the agencies said the Turkish authorities had not been able to satisfy the terms of an agreement that stipulated local people must be adequately compensated and the historic ruins of Hasankeyf protected.

Environmental groups such as Stop Ilisu had argued that damming the river would have destroyed important habitat and displaced tens of thousands of people.

‘Our critical view towards Ilisu was correct from the beginning,’ said German minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul. ‘If the protection of people, the environment and cultural assets cannot be guaranteed, then the delivery and credit guarantees for the dam must be stopped.’

Turkey said the dam, which would have produced 3.8 billion kWh of electricity a year, was ‘a driving force of social development’, and called the decision to revoke funding ‘political’.

Europe is happier with plans for the €8 billion Nabucco natural gas pipeline, legislation for which was ratified today by the Turkish government, despite warnings from environmental watchdogs.

The planned pipeline will run from Erzurum in Turkey to Baumgarten an der March in Austria. Backed by the European Union and the US, its construction is an attempt to reduce European reliance on Russian gas.

However international environmental and financial NGO CEE Bankwatch Network said the EU was pushing the 3,300km pipeline to protect its own energy security, and the money would be better spent on energy saving initiatives in central and eastern Europe. Recent figures suggest the equivalent of 3.5 times the amount of gas being pumped through Nabucco could be saved if buildings were more energy efficient.

Bankwatch energy co-ordinator Piotr Trzaskowski called the pipeline ‘the high-risk option’ that would ‘inevitably collide with EU environmental law’.

‘With all of its complexity and uncertainty, Nabucco will do little for energy security and only serve to ramp up “energy securitisation”,’ he said. ‘Real energy security can come from the stack of energy efficiency alternatives, also excellent for job creation and essential in the fight against climate change, that are staring the public funders in the face.’

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