Friends of the Earth is threatening action to block £200M of funding for engineering group Balfour Beatty. The UK government has been warned it faces high court action for breaches of international law if it gives financial support for the company’s work at the Ilisu dam project in Turkey.

Three law professors have warned the UK government that it will be in breach of international law if it proceeds with the funding as planned. They claim that Turkey is obliged to consult countries downstream (Syria and Iraq) before it starts the project, something that Ankara has allegedly refused to do. According to The Guardian newspaper, James Crawford from Cambridge University, Phillipe Sands of London University and Laurence Boiusson de Chazournes of the University of Geneva, said that supporting Turkey would put the UK in breach of International law too.

The UN Charter, the International Court of Justice and the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses all required consultation and negotiations before the water rights of downstream neighbours are affected (see panel).

According to a report in The Guardian, a spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said that ministers were considering the legal opinion and would reply to Friends of the Earth in ‘due course’.


The Ilisu dam project is said to violate five policy guidelines of the World Bank on 18 accounts, and core provisions of the UN Convention on the Non-Navigational Uses of Transboundary Watercourses. The World Bank is not funding Ilisu, so its guidelines do not have to be followed. However, they are regarded as internationally recognised standards. The guidelines in question are:
OD 4.00 Annex A, Environmental Assessment, and Annex B, Environmental Policy for Dam and Reservoir Projects.
OD4.30 Involuntary Resettlement
OP 7.50 Projects on International Waterways
OPN 11.03 Management of Cultural Property
BP 17.50 Disclosure of Operational Information