Swiss approve exports for Turkey’s 1,200-MW Ilisu

The Swiss government has given approval to export guarantees to firms providing equipment and services to Turkey’s controversial 1,200-MW Ilisu Dam.

Swiss news agency Swissinfo reported the government gave approval December 15 for the Swiss Export Credit Agency to guarantee export risks of Alstom Switzerland, Maggia, Stucky, and Colenco to provide goods and engineering services worth 225 million francs (US$184.6 million).

Employing standards of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank, the government said it established more than 100 possible criteria for the project, involving population, cultural artifacts, ecology, and neighboring countries. Twenty of them must be met for the Swiss to give their final approval, Economics Minister Doris Leuthard said.

Leuthard said the government might refuse the export-risk guarantee if the criteria are not met. However, she said the goal was not to halt the project, since it still would be carried out by others who might not respect international standards.

The 1.2 billion euro (US$1.54 billion) Ilisu hydroelectric project is part of the Southeast Anatolia Project, a US$32 billion plan to develop the country’s economically backward southeast and east.

Turkey started work August 5 on Ilisu on the Tigris River. (HNN 8/8/06) It is to generate 3.8 billion kWh per year, for the energy-hungry nation.

Environmental groups and academicians have protested that Ilisu will inundate part of the ancient town of Hasankeyf. The Romans used Hasankeyf as a fortress to ward off Persians. The town was later destroyed by Mongolians and rebuilt in the 11th century by Seljuk Turks.

German construction firm Ed. Zublin AG and Austrian equipment supplier VA Tech Escher Wyss have said their consortium, including Alstom of France, has taken steps to address concerns about the project. They said they are adhering to standards of the World Bank and OECD.

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