Skanska’s vice president of environmental affairs has confirmed that the company will no longer be part of the Ilisu dam project in Turkey. Axel Wenblad told IWP&DC that, ‘it is true that we have left the Ilisu project, the formal reason being international arbitration’. He added that the project is highly controversial and four major issues have been highlighted: • Varying estimates of how many people will need to be relocated.

  • Concern over environmental quality, especially the large quantities of untreated sewage that enters the Tigris river.

  • Submergence of part of the ancient city of Hasankeyef.

  • Disputes over the control of the Tigris between Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

The Ilisu project has received strong criticism from environmental and human rights groups for its alleged disregard of international standards for environmental and resettlement issues, and violation of World Bank guidelines.

These are issues which the World Commission on Dams has drawn international recognition to in its final report. Skanska is a financial contributor to WCD and a member of its industry group, as well as a supporter of ISO 14001 environmental management standards. Such commitments are likely to have influenced the company’s decision to leave the project.

As Wenblad explained before the official launch of WCD’s report: ‘Skanska has a strong environmental commitment and we are deeply involved from the industry side in the WCD process, together with companies like ABB and Siemens. We are taking steps to make recommendations in the [WCD] report operational as soon as possible. We believe that the ISO 14001 environmental standard offers the right conceptual framework and structure to facilitate compliance with the guidelines.’ Skanska’s stake in Ilisu will now be offered to a new company or shared between the existing members of the consortium which include ABB, Sulzer Hydro of Switzerland, Impreglio of Italy, Balfour Beatty of the UK and three Turkish companies.