BP pipeline will displace thousands, says Amnesty

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The Independent Online

A£2.9bn oil and gas pipeline project from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean, due to be constructed by a BP-led consortium, will infringe the human rights of thousands of people and cause environmental damage, according to an Amnesty International report published today.

Amnesty is urging the British Government to reject BP's application for taxpayers' money, in the form of export credit guarantees, for the 1,100 miles of pipeline.

The study accuses the consortium of concluding an unprecedented agreement with the Turkish government which, it claims, will in effect strip local people and workers of their civil rights.

The pipeline, from the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, through Georgia, to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, is one of the most ambitious projects of its kind and has been seen as a crucial gambit in a 21st-century equivalent of the Great Game. The scheme will allow vast supplies of oil and gas to flow in separate pipes from former Soviet central Asia to the Mediterranean without having to pass through Russian or Iranian territory.

The Amnesty report, Human Rights on the Line, maintains that BP's agreement with the Turkish government will lead to 30,000 villagers being forced to give up their land rights; inadequate health and safety precautions for local residents and workers; protesters against the pipeline facing state oppression; and a series of threats to the environment.

Under the Host Government Agreement, Turkey has agreed to pay the BP consortium compensation if the construction operation is disrupted. It also guarantees that the companies will be protected from consequences of any changes in national or international legislation.

The Turkish government has initiated statutory permanent purchases of land through which the pipes will be laid. About 30,000 villagers in eastern and central Turkey are due to be moved from their land.

The Host Government Agreement allows BP free access to water for its "hydrostatic testing" and other uses. Amnesty's report points out that there is no governmental and legal supervision of this, and the process is open to environmental abuse.

The Baku-Ceyhan campaign, a pressure group lobbying against the project, claims the pipeline will be in danger from earthquakes. One of the most serious faultlines in Turkey runs directly from the region of Sivas to Erzurum, the intended route of the pipeline.

The group also maintains that fishing communities near the route of the pipes, such as Yumurtalik, risk having their livelihood destroyed by the traffic of supertankers and pollution from terminals.

Chris Marsden, chairman of Amnesty International's business group, said: "The legal agreements signed by the Turkish government and the pipeline consortium effectively creates a 'rights-free corridor' for the pipeline, disregarding the human rights of thousands of people in the region."

A spokesman for BP said: "We have tried to reach the highest international standards possible in signing this agreement. This would not have been necessary in Western Europe or North America, but we have had to do this here because of the lack of that kind of legal framework.

"We have paid the compensation necessary to those whose land will be affected by the construction, and, following discussions with local communities, we do not believe there will be environmental damage."