ISTANBUL-The government is determined to proceed with construction of the Ilısu Dam regardless of international funding for the project and opposition from environmentalists, was the message from Forestry and Environment Minister Veysel Eroğlu. Opponents of the project say the flooding of the historic town of Hasankeyf will be a travesty.
Forest and Environment Minister Veysel Eroğlu has said he is determined to build the Ilısu Dam in southeastern Anatolia even though "international funding support cannot be provided."
The proposed dam has drawn strong reactions from environmentalists because it would flood the ancient city of Hasankeyf in the southeastern province of Batman. The minister told daily Radikal that construction would continue with domestic financing if international credit cannot be provided.
Eroğlu also said foundations for the new Hasankeyf would be laid July 20. The government has announced that the ancient city will be moved to another location to save it from the flood.
"What has been done before today by those who ’try to protect the history?’ Did they repair a place? Those people have no benefit [to society]. They all talk, talk, talk," Eroğlu said. The minister, however, declined to criticize the popular singers Tarkan and Orhan Gencebay, who have participated in the campaign against the dam project and made a video about it. "They are well-intentioned," he said.
Credit agencies from Germany, Austria and Switzerland had agreed to provide financial support for the dam project, but then suspended funding unless Turkey fulfilled 153 criteria, including conducting research into the biological diversity of the region and reaching an expropriation agreement with the people who would be removed from the area.
The criteria were supposed to be fulfilled by December 2008. When the deadline came, the credit agencies suspended the credit, saying Turkey had not fulfilled the criteria, and gave the country an extension until July 6.
"Even before any work started, the credit institutions said the criteria were not fulfilled. However, they did not give any cash in advance," Eroğlu said. "When they gave the advance, the deadline came. They suspended the credit in 2008. On July 6, the three credit institutions should announce their final decision. If they do not, we will think that they are not well-intentioned."
The minister added that 25,000 euros have been allocated for the protection of historical monuments in Hasankeyf, saying that although there are few tourists currently visiting the area, after the project is completed, it will be a center for tourism.
Doğa Derneği, an environmenta nongovernmental organization that is campaigning to stop the building of the Ilısu Dam, released a statement on Tuesday, saying that Yaşar Kemal, a famous author, had also lent his support to the campaign. The NGO called on the minister to heed the calls of the public, noting that the main responsibility of an environment minister was to ensure nature was protected.