In its continuing campaign to stop construction of the Ilisu dam in Turkey, Friends of the Earth (FoE) has increased its shareholding in Balfour Beatty. The move will enable the organisation to stage another demonstration at the UK company’s annual general meeting in May.
Balfour Beatty is not the promoter of Ilisu, which is a Turkish Govern-ment project, but it is applying for UK export credits to cover construction costs represented by exports from the UK (US$200M or 10% of the total project cost).
In its fight to stop the construction of Ilisu, FoE bought a handful of shares in Balfour Beatty last year. The organisation then staged a protest at the company’s AGM: an event it plans to repeat this year.
But with its stake increased to US$43,000 worth of shares, FoE can now propose at the meeting that the company pulls out of the project. ‘We’re expecting to get a substantial vote at the meeting,’ said a FoE spokesman. ‘We’ve been lobbying the pension funds and other major stakeholders to support the motion.’ If it goes ahead, Ilisu, – a hydro project on the Tigris river in southeast Anatolia, 65km upstream of the Syrian and Iraqi border – will have an installed capacity of 1200MW. A rockfill dam, 1820m long and 135m high, will create a reservoir with a maximum volume of 10.4B m3 and a surface area of 313m2.
Opponents of the scheme are concerned that it could displace as many as 78,000 people. It would also flood much of the city of Hasankeyf, built by Seljuk Turks in the early 12th century. They say that rehabilitating Turkey’s inefficient transmission systems would be more cost-effective than building a dam that will cost three times as much as a gas fired power station with the same installed capacity. In addition, although Ilisu is not planned as an irrigation project, it does allow Ankara to vary river flow and could potentially cause disagreements with other riparian countries.
However, Balfour Beatty says these issues have already been taken into consideration and any protest staged by FoE will have no impact at all on the company’s decision.
‘What will have an effect is a substantial environmental impact report on the proposed dam, which we anticipate will be published very soon,’ said Tim Sharp, director of corporate communications at the company.
‘This will be presented to the Turkish government, which must show it can satisfy all the environmental issues mentioned, such as the provision for upstream water treatment plants. If it can, the project will continue to go ahead. If it can’t, we won’t continue.’ He stressed the point that this will ‘have nothing to do with the protest groups’.
Balfour Beatty says the report, conducted as an update to the original environmental assessment of Ilisu completed in 1998, will be published to allow public debate before any final decisions are taken by the government. If the project still goes ahead after the AGM in May, however, FoE plans to sell its stake in the company.
‘The share price has gone up since we bought our stake,’ said a spokes-man for FOE. ‘So if we are unsuccessful at the meeting at least we can use our small profit to print some more leaflets against the project.’