Zuercher Kantonalbank from Switzerland today announced to withdraw from the highly controversial Ilisu dam project in Southeast Turkey. The development organisations Berne Declaration from Switzerland, WEED from Germany and Eca-Watch Austria welcome this decision and urge the remaining banks to follow the example of Zuerich Kantonalbank.
It is a scandal that a state bank which is obliged by state law to environmental protection and human rights, secretly finances a large-scale project with far-reaching negative impacts and only corrects this decision after massive public pressure”, critizes Christine Eberlein from Berne Declaration. Zuerich Kantonalbank had decided in December 2006 to support the Ilisu dam project and publicly defended this decision two weeks ago.
The 150 km long dam threatens to displace 11,000 to 50,000 people, destroy 9,000 year old cultural heritage and important ecological habitat. On top of this, Turkey has refused for months to make conditions legally binding that aim at improving the project. The export credit agencies (ECAs) of Germany, Austria and Switzerland had tied these conditions to their approval of public guarantees for the project at the end of March, 2007. Non-governmental organisations criticize the inadequacy of the conditions to address the fundamental environmental and human rights flaws of the project.
“At least two more major European – Bank Austria and Société Génerale – as well as Turkish banks are known to be involved in this desastrous project”, comments Heike Drillisch from the German non-governmental organisation WEED. “We urge them to immediately step out of the project as well. The project will lead to huge social and cultural impacts which will backfire to the reputation of the banks.”