Scathing report on Turkish dam project backed by Britain

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Britain's controversial support for Turkey's much-criticised Ilisu dam project is hanging in the balance after a scathing official report on the environmental and human rights aspects of the project, published yesterday.

Britain's controversial support for Turkey's much-criticised Ilisu dam project is hanging in the balance after a scathing official report on the environmental and human rights aspects of the project, published yesterday.

The report said that the £1.25bn dam, planned for the Tigris river in south-east Turkey, would leave nearly 30,000 people in a position to demand resettlement or claim compensation for expropriated land and highlighted wide-spread dissatisfaction with previous Turkish government relocation packages.

Two years ago the Government said that it was "minded" to back the construction of the dam, to be built by the British civil engineering firm Balfour Beatty, which has a contract worth nearly £200m for the project, and wants the Department of Trade and Industry's Export Credit Guarantee Department to provide underwriting.

Tony Blair is believed to have overruled Foreign Office concern that the dam would anger Turkey's downstream neighbours on the Tigris, Syria and Iraq, which both rely on the river for their water supplies.

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Patricia Hewitt, said ministers would now analyse the report into the environmental and social impact of the project. She announced a public consultation on its findings until early September, adding: "A decision about export credit support requires very careful consideration."

Some Whitehall sources believe the Government will be hard pressed to continue its support after the critical report, which said the dam would affect 59,000 people, creating a reservoir covering 300 sq kms, of which about a quarter is first-rate farmland. More than 180 villages would be submerged.

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