Heritage before Hydropower: Petition to UNESCO on Ilisu Dam launched

(Zurich, Berlin, Vienna – 14.3.2012) On the occasion of today’s International Day of Action for Riversan international coalition of environmental and human rights organisations launches a petition to UNESCO to become active in protecting potential World Heritage Sites which are under threat due to the construction of the Ilisu Dam in Turkey. For the first time initiatives from Turkey, Iraq and Iran engage jointly in the protection of their natural and cultural heritage.


The transnational alliance speaks out against the destruction of the 10,000 year old town Hasankeyf, which would be flooded in the Ilisu Dam’s reservoir, and against the severe impacts on the Mesopotamian Marshes and its inhabitants at the mouth of the Tigris river. They are supported by numerous organisations throughout the world, including Swiss Berne Declaration, CounterCurrent from Germany and ECA Watch Austria which have campaigned on the Ilisu project for over a decade.
Hasankeyf and the Tigris valley are a unique natural and cultural landscape. They form the livelihood for thousands of inhabitants. Even though Hasankeyf is under monumental protection by Turkish law, the Turkish government intends its inundation.
The Mesopotamian Marshes were included in the Tentative List of potential World Heritage Sites by the Iraqi government in 2003. The actual nomination process to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site has not been initiated however. Ulrich Eichelmann from ECA Watch Austria has recently visited the marshes. He confirms: “The impacts of the Ilisu Dam for the Mesopotamian Marshes would be devastating. If Ilisu becomes reality, the garden of Eden will dry up and hundreds of thousands Iraqi people will suffer.”
“Dams violate human rights, destroy nature and cultural goods and are not even climate friendly in many cases“, Heike Drillisch, coordinator of CounterCurrent, states. These points of criticism are currently being addressed at the Alternative World Water Forum in Marseille. This event is organized to demonstrate against privatisation schemes and the destructive impacts of dams which are promoted at the World Water Forum taking place at the same time in Marseille. The petition to UNESCO is presented at the Alternative World Water Forum.



The petition and the complete list of supporters can be found athttp://www.change.org/petitions/unesco-world-heritage-committee-save-world-heritage-on-the-tigris-river-in-mesopotamia


Heike Drillisch, CounterCurrent and Berne Declaration: +49 177 345 26 11, heike.drillisch@gegenstroemung.org

Ulrich Eichelmann, ECA-Watch: Tel. +43 676 662 15 12, ulrich.eichelmann@eca-watch.at

Further Information:

Press Release by the initiating organisations: http://www.gegenstroemung.org/drupal/sites/default/files/Ilisu_UNESCO_Petition_2012_PR_Initiators.pdf

Information on the Alternative Water Forum: http://www.fame2012.org/en/

Information on the International Day of Action against Dams and for Rivers: http://www.internationalrivers.org/en/node/6066


The petition is initiated by Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive (Turkey), ICSSI – Iraq Civil Society Solidarity Initiative, CDO – Civil Development Organisation (Iraq-Kurdistan Regional Governorate, KRG), CENESTA – The Centre for Sustainable Development (Iran).
The governments of Germany, Austria and Switzerland withdrew export credit guarantees for the Ilisu project in 2009. The Austrian company Andritz as well as the Swiss consultants Colenco, Stucky and Maggia nonetheless remained in the project and enabled the Turkish government to continue with the construction of the dam.