Britain has given a £220 million export credit guarantee to the controversial Ilisu dam project in Turkey.

The UK Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers said that he would grant an application from Balfour Beatty for the £220 million export credit guarantee to cover its part in building the 1200 MWe hydropower project on the Tigris river at Ilisu.

He said that Turkey would have to make four changes to the project before final approval. These are: • A verifiable resettlement programme for between 15 000 and 25 000 residents.

• Upstream treatment plants to maintain water quality.

• Assurances that the downstream river flow would be properly maintained.

• Production of a detailed plan to save as much as possible of Hasankeyf, a town that will be partly flooded.

The announcement of the award of the export credit guarantee was accompanied by two reports identifying these issues as the main environmental and human rights implications of the project. The Turkish government says that it has already given Britain a detailed explanation of the steps it is taking to comply with these conditions.

However, campaigners have claimed that the dam will deprive both Syria and Iraq of water, thus heightening tensions between these nations; that it is part of the Turkish security campaign against the Kurds, as the area to be flooded is a largely Kurdish areas, causing many Kurds to be displaced; and that it would be an environmental disaster.

The companies involved in the project announced that they will publish a fresh environmental report in March, after which Stephen Byers will make a final decision.