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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tarkan's Campaign Sets Landmark

By Adelind Osmanlı reporting from Munich, Germany

Tarkan by the Tigris River
Tarkan by the Tigris River
The Environment News Service is distributing a report on Turkey's controversial Ilisu Dam project that reveals environmental and human rights groups, along with Turkish pop star Tarkan, were celebrating on Monday the news that Germany, Austria and Switzerland will withdraw their export credit guarantees for the controversial Turkish dam project by July 6, as the German daily Frankfurter Rundschau Online reported last Friday.

The ENS press release writes that the withdrawal is a major victory for environmentalists and human rights advocates, including the prominent artist, who have been campaigning to stop the 1,200 megawatt, two billion Euro dam being built on the Tigris River in southeast Turkey.

The Ilisu dam is part of the South Anatolia Project, a network of 22 dams and 19 hydroelectric plants, according to government plans. The Ilisu reservoir will contain more than 10 billion cubic metres of water from the Tigris.

The singer's campaign has achieved a landmark, as it is being reported this is the first time export credit contracts have been cancelled on humanitarian, cultural and environmental grounds, and the anti-dam advocates say it increases the likelihood that the project will be cancelled completely, because Turkey now lacks the financial means and technical know how to build the giant dam - even though the country's minister of environment, Veysel Eroğlu, was recently quoted to claim that Turkey would finance the project from its own resources.

As the project's reputation is now diminished, campaigners believe it will be difficult for Turkey to find new sponsors, as the European banks providing finance for the project are expected to also withdraw.

Efforts will now be increased to have the project revoked in Turkey as well, as environmentalists believe there are better alternatives than recent government efforts - which appear not to be working - to boost employment and bring prosperity to the impoverished southeast.

With celebrated artists like Nobel Prize winning writer Orhan Pamuk joining Tarkan's campaign to stop the Ilisu dam, critics of the project believe that the 10,000 year old ancient town surrounding the Tigris River and the river itself deserves to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A panel on renewable energy set up in south-eastern Turkey led to a heated debate on the project last week, with some accusing environmentalists of blocking progress in the region and of ignoring the demands of the people and the interests of the country.

But the head of the local Chamber of Electrical Engineers called on the Turkish government to give up the project and "engage in an effort that can take us into the future and leaves [the ancient town] where it is".

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