Sinosure's possible support of the Ilisu Dam project in Turkey and project risks

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sinosure/China Export&Credit Insurance Corporation
Fortune Times Building, No 11
Fenghuiyaua, Xi Cheng District
100032 Bejing

Re: Sinosure's possible support of the Ilisu Dam project in Turkey and project risks

To President Wang Yi:

Doğa Derneği (the Turkish Nature Association) is one of the leading national non-governmenral organisations in Turkey working on nature conservation.  We are partners with BirdLife International in Turkey, and a member of IUCN.

We have recently been informed that your organisation is considering supporting the Ilisu Dam project in Turkey. We are writing to you now to express our concerns about this possible involvement, to be addressed before your company comes to a final decision.

The Ilisu project is one of the most controversial dam projects worldwide. If realised, it will have an enormous impact on the environment, cultural heritage, downstream countries and local inhabitants. Unfortunately, project preparations have been very limited, and do not fulfil international standards such as World Bank standards, the Equator Principles and others.

As a result of these facts, and supported by high-level experts, the European ECAs of Germany, Austria and Switzerland cancelled their contract with Turkey in July 2009 after more than two years of intense project monitoring. The decision was a unique act in the international export economy business, providing yet more evidence of how destructive the “Ilisu” project is. At the same time, “Ilisu” has become a worldwide-known example of responsible ECA policy. If Sinosure replaces the European ECAs this can create a negative international reputation for the organisation.

We would like to summarise our position on the Ilisu Dam and its negative affects on the world’s common natural and cultural heritage, on the people of the area, and downstream of the dam.

a)    The Tigris River, together with the Euphrates, is considered to be one of the most biologically diverse rivers on earth. If constructed, the Ilisu Dam will result in the permanent loss of these unique riparian ecosystems and other associated habitats along a stretch of river 170+ km in length; taking the river’s tributaries into account, the effected area is likely to reach up to 400 km. Due to the extremely large magnitude of natural habitat destruction, ecologically viable populations of rare, vulnerable, migratory and endangered species will no longer exist within the project’s impact zone, including downstream areas. Unfortunately, no adequate Environmental Impact Assessment has been made in preparation for the project.

b)    This region is part of ancient Upper Mesopotamia – the ‘Cradle of Civilisation’. More than 300 archaeological sites in the area will be destroyed if the project is realised. Most importantly, one of the oldest cities of mankind, Hasankeyf, will be flooded by the reservoir. Archeologists have uncovered evidence of the city’s 12,000-year-old roots, as well as the traces of more than 20 different cultures. The city of Hasankeyf incontestably qualifies to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

c)    The downstream effects of Ilisu have not been adequately dicussed and investigated. Furthermore, there is not sufficient information on how the Ilisu dam will affect the socio-economy of Turkey following the resettlement of thousands of people.

“Ilisu” does not comply with modern international standards.  We also believe that this project does not comply with important policy documents of the People’s Republic of China, such as the State Council’s “Nine Principles on Encouraging and Standardizing Foreign Investment” and SASAC´s “Guidelines on Fulfilling Social Responsibility by Central Enterprises”. 

Because of the reasons summarised above, Doğa Derneği considers the Ilisu project to be a major threat, especially to Turkey’s natural and cultural heritage. Therefore, as a national non-governmental organisation, Doğa Derneği has been actively opposing the construction of the Ilisu Dam over the past years, along with other NGOs in Europe and in Turkey. Doğa Derneği proposes that the Tigris River and Hasankeyf become a UNESCO World Heritage Site as an alternative development vision for the area (see attachement  = UNESCO Report).

Hasankeyf and the wider Tigris Valley is a part of humanity’s common heritage. Therefore, all nations on earth have the responsibility to conserve this world heritage. In the light of the information given above, I would like to kindly recommend that Sinosure reconsider its involvement in the Ilisu Dam project, and I sincerely hope that your decision will be in favour of the preservation of the Tigris River and Hasankeyf as a world heritage site.

We would be happy to inform you and/or the Chinese Ambassador in Ankara about the project in more detail.

We look forward to your response.


Dr. Güven Eken
Doğa Derneği
Turkish Nature Association

Mr. Zhou Shengxian, Minister of Environmental Protection
Mr. Gong Xiasheng, Ambassador of the Peoples Republic of China in Turkey
Mr. Wu Hongbo, Ambassador of the People´s Republic of China in Germany
Mr. Wu Ken, Ambassador of the People´s Republic of China in Austria
Mr. Dong Jinyi, Ambassador of the People´s Republic of China in Switzerland

More information: 

Chinese version of this letter

Blog on Sinosure's interest in the Ilisu Dam