NGO invests in building company shares to prevent dam construction

Friends of the Earth (FoE) has announced that it has invested in shares in the UK construction giant, Balfour Beatty, in order to make a resolution challenging the proposed controversial Ilisu Dam project in Turkey.

FoE spent £30,000 (48,000 euros) to enable it to make a challenging resolution of the widely-criticised project at Balfour Beatty’s AGM in May. The company is leading a consortium for the construction of the dam on the Tigris River, which Turkey says will solve severe water shortages in the far south-east of the country. The dam, to be situated some 65 kilometres (40 miles) upstream of the Syrian and Iraqi border, would generate 3,600 Gigawatt hours of peak hour electricity each year and have a 195 square mile (315 sq km) reservoir with a maximum volume of 10.4 billion cubic metres.

However, FoE, Kurdish groups (the ethnic minority which mainly populates the area of the proposed dam), other environmental groups and historians opposed the project, which would submerge some 183 villages and hamlets. Many are particularly worried about the submergence of the town of Hasankeyf, an internationally important archaeological site dating back 10,000 years. Campaigners also contend that the dam will force the relocation of some 78,000 people, the majority of them Kurdish and threaten to cause conflict over water with Syria and Iraq, both of which have strained relationships with Ankara.

FoE’s resolution urges Balfour Beatty to change its company policy so that it reflects the principles and guidelines of the recent World Commission on Dams (WCD) report. The report was drawn up following the discussions of a range of stakeholders including the dam-building industry and it is now widely considered the benchmark standard in this sector. Key competitors to Balfour Beatty, such as Skanska, have already adopted the WCD principles and guidelines, FoE says.

A fact-finding mission to the area by an international team from the UK, Germany, US and Italy found that Ilisu “violates each and every one of the WCD’s new guidelines”, concluding that conditions in the region make it impossible for resettlement to be carried out in a fair and just manner. It also alleges that consultation with affected people has been inadequate, biased and constrained by intimidation, citing Turkey’s much-criticised human rights record regarding the Kurds.

“Our move represents a significant step forward in the lengths law-abiding organisations such as FOE are prepared to go to show big business how serious we are in wanting to reform corporations,” commented Tony Juniper, Policy and Campaigns Director at FoE. “The resolution to Balfour Beatty is challenging, but constructive. We think a responsible corporation cannot pretend the Commission’s report has not happened nor imply that it has nothing to do with them. It’s a time big business such as Balfour Beatty put the planet into its bottom line.”

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie