After returning from a four-day fact-finding trip to the Ilisu dam site in Turkey, Ann Clwyd, who chairs the Parliamentary Human Rights Group in the UK and is a Labour member of parliament, said she was concerned that local people had not been consulted about the scheme and its impacts on their lives, in the way required by internationally agreed standards.

Last year, the UK trade and industry secretary, Stephen Byers, announced that he was ‘minded’ to grant export credit guarantees for the project, on the condition that the Turkish government agreed to a series of measures intended to minimise the environmental impact of the dam and address resettlement issues.

But Clwyd does not believe that the scheme would or could be revised to an acceptable level. She is reported as saying: ‘Local people cannot be said to have been properly consulted, let alone to have been encouraged to participate in the planning of the project. The right of the Kurds has just not been respected. I don’t believe the Turkish government will comply with the conditions set by the British government and I would hope by now the British government realises that it is a project which is fundamentally and seriously flawed, and that we shouldn’t touch it with a barge pole.’

UK construction firm, Balfour Beatty applied to the UK export-credit-guarantee-department (ECGD) to underwrite its £220M (US$330M) part in the Ilisu project. However, Byers has announced a major review of the ECGD which could affect Britain’s involvement in the scheme. According to Byers, the Department of Trade and Industry’s report recommends that ECGD should be reformed and strengthened so its activities become more transparent and consistent with the UK government’s wider international policies to promote sustainable development, human rights, good governance and trade throughout the world.

However, Nigel Sloan, head of export finance for Balfour Beatty, said that ECGD did review the environmental issues associated with the project. ‘The outcome of the review is just that all projects will be screened. The review has made no difference to Ilisu at all,’ he said. ‘Besides, we haven’t yet reached an agreement on contract conditions with the client. That is the key issue for the next few months.’