New Report on human rights violations by dams in Turkey

Potsdam, 15.3.2011 – A new report by organisations from Germany and Turkey reveals the huge extent to which Turkish dam policy violates human rights.

The report was submitted to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights yesterday, on the International Day of Action against Dams. The committee will consider at its next session in May 2011 the Turkish government’s compliance with its obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Covenant constitutes binding law and inter alia prohibits to deprive people of their livelihoods.
„For the first time the impacts of large dams are assessed from a strict human rights point of view“, states Heike Drillisch, author of the report and coordinator of CounterCurrent, the Ilisu Campaign in Germany. „As the Turkish government has ratified the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2003, it is obliged to drastically change its dam policy.“
In their report the groups conclude that the Turkish government violates numerous rights covered by the Covenant, including those to food, water, housing and health. The study analyses Turkish legislation such the laws on expropriation and resettlement and some environmental laws as well as several cases including the Ilisu dam, for which the German, Austrian and Swiss governments had granted export cover from 2007 to 2009, dams in the Coruh and Munzur valleys as well as the Yortanli dam, which in February 2011 submerged the antique spa Allianoi, and the impacts of a small hydro-electric power plant in Southwestern Turkey. The report also gives special attention to the situation of nomads, whose culture is under great threat from the construction of dams, and the right to a healthy environment.
„The Turkish government plans the construction of approximately 2,000 dams and hydro-electric power plants in addition to existing 2,000 ones without any assessment of their cumulative impacts on the entire country“, states Engin Yilmaz, Director General of the Turkish nature organisation Doga Dernegi. „The implementation of these plans would not only cause environmental destruction on an unprecedented scale, but also massively violate of the rights of up to two million people.“
„All the dams that have been constructed to date show the same pattern: there is no meaningful participation of the affected population, compensation levels are not sufficient to restore livelihoods, and income restoration programs have not been created”, states Ercan Ayboga, international spokesperson of the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive. „This constitutes a severe violation of Turkey’s obligations under the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and we hope that the Committee will make it unmistakably clear to the Turkish government that this is unacceptable.”
On occasion of the International Day of Action Against Dams and for Rivers, Water and Life actions took place all over the world to raise awareness of the severe impacts of dams on humans and the environment. In Turkey actions took place in Istanbul, Rize, Izmit, Antalya, Batman, Sirnak and Tunceli. In Spain, activists have alerted the shareholders attending the Annual General Meeting of BBVA, a major Spanish bank, to the fact that through its Turkish partner bank Garantibank BBVA is supporting the destructive Ilisu dam.
A link to the report  Dam construction in Turkey and its impact on economic, cultural and social rights can be found at the bottom for this page.
It was compiled by CounterCurrent in cooperation with
Çoruh Basin Environment Conservation Union
Doga Dernegi
Free Munzur Initiative
Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive
Platform for the Protection of Yuvarlakçay (YKP)
Yelda KULLAP, Lawyer, Member of the Allianoi Initiative Group
Pervin ÇOBAN, Member of the Association for Assistance and Solidarity with Sarıkeçili Yuruks
Bedrettin Kalın, Member of the Green Artvin Society
Information on the Committee on Econimic, Social and Cultural Rights:
Information on the International Day of Action Against Dams and for Rivers, Water and Life:
Heike Drillisch (CounterCurrent – GegenStrömung): +49 – 177 – 345 2611,
Engin Yilmaz (Doga Dernegi): +90 – 312 – 481 2545,
Ercan Ayboga (Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive): +49 – 163 – 757 7847,