ECONOMY

Turkish dam project hit

LONDON – British engineering group Balfour Beatty Plc announced yesterday it was pulling out of a Turkish dam project, delighting opponents of the scheme who had said it would displace local communities and harm the environment. The Turkish government’s plans to build the Ilisu dam in the southeast of the country has drawn fierce criticism from activists like Friends of the Earth, who warned the scheme would displace over 30,000 local Kurdish citizens and flood towns. The decision follows a thorough and extensive evaluation of the commercial, environmental and social issues inherent in the project, the company said in a statement. Balfour spokesman Tim Sharp denied the company had bowed to pressure from opponents, and added: Our withdrawal does not mean that the dam won’t happen. Balfour Beatty had been targeted by environmental groups like Friends of the Earth and human rights organizations over its leadership of the dam engineering consortium. The project, estimated at around $2 billion, is intended to boost regional power and electricity supplies. Leading companies involved in a separate dam power consortium include France’s Alstom and Swiss firm Sulzer, and Balfour spokesman Sharp said he believed those companies were still committed to the project. No information, however, was given on whether the other members of the engineering consortium were going ahead with the project. Activists claim victory Friends of the Earth said Balfour’s withdrawal was a victory for their organization. The pressure group had acquired a small shareholding in the company, enabling it to attend Balfour’s annual general meeting in May and fire questions at management over their involvement in the Ilisu Dam scheme. We’re delighted that our campaign to stop Balfour from going ahead with this disastrous project is victorious, said Friends of the Earth director Charles Secrett. A spokesman for the London-based Kurdish Human Rights Project, which had also protested against the scheme, also hailed Balfour’s withdrawal. If you bring the human rights and environmental issues together, you can win, said the spokesman. British newspapers had reported that the ruling Labor Party was divided over whether to support the Ilisu scheme or not. Asked to comment on this, a government spokeswoman said Labor had always considered arguments both for and against the project.