Ilisu Dam (Turkish Kurdistan) financed by a bank controlled by Unicredit (2008)

Since 1954, the Turkish government has been planning to build the Ilisu dam on the Tigris river. In recent years, this ancient project for which the Turkish government had requested funding from European banks, including Bank Austria Creditanstalt, controlled by HypoVereinsbank, which in turn was controlled by Unicredit, has been resumed.

The construction of the Ilisu dam would have led to a significant reduction in the Tigris river’s flow of water and a devastating environmental impact, causing the creation of an artificial lake of approximately 313 square km which would have submerged a wide valley, including the famous Hasankeyf archaeological site which preserves twelve thousand years of history, and would have also provoked the evacuation of at least 78,000 inhabitants, although many more people are likely to suffer the negative consequences of this project.

The evacuation had already started without the majority of the population having had the opportunity to meet with a project manager, to access the documentation and, above all, to receive a fair compensation for the damage suffered due to the evacuation. In other words, the reference to the World Bank’s standards, although envisaged by the Turkish government, remained only on paper.

The implementation of this project was causing a series of serious violations of fundamental rights of the individuals involved and was in open violation of the rules of the European Convention on Human Rights and the standards established by the World Bank.

Noting that participating in this project as a lender requires credit institutions to assume precise responsibilities towards the people affected by the project itself, I warned Unicredit against continuing the project, and held it responsible for contributing to the violation of fundamental rights as well as of their own code of ethics.

After receiving the warning letter, sent in July 2008, Unicredit organized two meetings with me and with the associations that dealt with the campaign, promising to evaluate the arguments and the evidence delivered within six months.

In the end, they gave up financing the dam.

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