• Bruce Rich
  • Environmental Forum
  • January-February 2009
  • p. 20

A large dam on the Tigris River in southeastern Turkey has become a test case for upholding environmental and social standards in export finance worldwide. The $1.64 billion Ilisu Dam will forcibly displace upwards of 65,000 ethnic Kurds, inundating some of the most important archeological treasures in Anatolia. Turkey has no agreement on downstream water use for the Tigris with Syria and Iraq, and in the past officials from both countries have protested not only Turkish plans for the project itself, but prospective western involvement in its financing. The project is so environmentally, socially and politically risky that no international private bank will support it without government guarantees. But the export credit agencies (ECAs) of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland have approved nearly $600 million in loan guarantees for Ilisu....The approval in 2007 of export finance for Ilisu appears increasingly to be an egregious breach of the spirit if not the letter of the OECD “Common Approaches on Environment” for ECAs. Committing hundreds of millions in public guarantees for such an egregiously ill-prepared project, with 153 post-facto conditions purporting to make it viable as construction proceeds, was a terrible precedent that should never be repeated.

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