Arabs urge UK to reconsider financing for Turkish dam
(AFP, Cairo) — The Arab League said Monday it has urged Britain to reconsider plans to help finance a dam in southeast Turkey amid concerns it would displace too many people and drain water for neighboring Iraq and Syria.
The 22-member league, which includes Iraq and Syria, sent a letter to British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook saying the dam violates international law on non-navigation uses for shared rivers, a league official said.
“In addition, it displaces thousands of people in the region and affects Syrian and Iraqi water resources on the Tigris River,” the league's assistant secretary general for political affairs, Mohammed Zakaria Ismail, said.
When it meets in September, the Arab League will discuss the proposed Ilisu Hydroelectric Dam on the Tigris River as well as other dams built by Turkey which affect Syria and Iraq, he said.
Both Iraq and Syria accuse Turkey of monopolising the rivers which run through its territory, while Ankara says the charges are “unjustified” and that fair quantities are allowed to flow to its neighbours.
Last December, London decided to provide an export credit to a British company hoping to lead the construction of the dam, which is expected to cost $1.9 billion.
British Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers said at the time the credit was contingent on assurances that Turkey would build water treatment plants to maintain water quality, maintain water flows downstream and protect the valley's archaeological heritage.
The project has attracted a storm of criticism from human rights groups, archaeologists and environmentalists on the grounds it would displace thousands of people as it will flood dozens of settlements and destroy historical sites.
Such concerns have led the British parliament to oppose government plans to partially finance the project, which Turkey hopes to start building by the end of the year.
Turkey has built a number of dams on the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers to boost welfare in the impoverished region by increasing electricity production and irrigation in agriculture.
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)