Construction giant drops controversial Turkish dam plan

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One of Britain's leading construction companies pulled out of the planned Yusufeli dam in Turkey yesterday after environmentalists said it would be the target for protests.

The move by Amec avoids a big embarrassment for the Government, which has been asked to underwrite the firm's involvement in the £590m scheme, highlighted by The Independent this week.

Friends of the Earth had been due to start a campaign outside Amec's London headquarters today. The project had been called "Ilisu 2", after another controversial Turkish dam that was to have been built by a British company, Balfour Beatty.

Critics say the new dam would displace 30,000 people by flooding the area around Yusufeli in north-east Turkey. It would also destroy the habitats of endangered species and wash away important archaeological sites, campaigners argue.

Nick Welsh, a spokesman for Amec, said it was "coincidence" that the company's decision came just before protests were due to begin. Amec has been working on the scheme for nearly three years. It said it had abandoned the project for purely commercial reasons.

In November, Balfour Beatty dropped out of the consortium planning to construct the Ilisu damafter a three-year protest campaign said to have seriously damaged the company's reputation. Like Amec, Balfour Beatty had sought export credit guarantees from the Department of Trade and Industry against non-payment by the Turkish government.

At Ilisu, the Kurdish minority who live in the area would be displaced, while at Yusufeli, members of Georgian minority would be flooded out. The Turkish government is still trying to press ahead with both schemes.

Kerim Yildiz, the director of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, said: "For minorities on the ground whose homes, livelihood and ways of life are threatened by this project, this a huge victory."

Tony Juniper, the director-designate of Friends of the Earth, said the Government had again been saved from having to make a policy decision on a project that raised fundamental human rights issues. "Ministers must set a framework so that companies ... don't waste their money getting involved in projects that don't meet the standards of society."