Downstream Impacts of Turkish Dam Construction on Syria and Iraq
Joint Report of Fact-Finding Mission to Syria and Iraq
by Kurdish Human Rights Project, Ilisu Dam Campaign, The Corner House
first published 30 July 2002
In 2001, a delegation from three UK non-governmental organisations went to Syria and Iraq on a Fact-Finding Mission to conduct research and interviews on the potential downstream impacts of the proposed Ilisu Dam, scheduled for construction near the ancient town of Hasankeyf in southeast Turkey.
The proposed dam is only one component of a far larger project: the vast and ambitious Southeastern Anatolia Project, known as GAP after its Turkish title (Guneydogu Anadolu Projesi) comprising a network of 22 dams and 19 power plants. Anticipated repercussions of the Ilisu Dam are just a microcosm of the projected consequences if the full GAP project is implemented.
The Mission found that GAP dams have already significantly reduced the downstream flow of the river Euphrates (and to a lesser extent the Tigris), causing increased salinity and seriously affecting agriculture. It found that Turkey has not complied with, or has violated the letter or spirit of, many agreements, treaties and protocols signed with its co-riparians over the past century; international conventions on water sharing and use; and with "best practice" guidelines for dam projects on shared rivers.
The Mission also found that a system of consultation between Syria and Iraq regarding Euphrates and Tigris rivers is long established and operates well, suggesting that cooperation between Turkey, Syria and Iraq should be possible.
The World Commission on Dams concluded that water conflict is intimately connected to imbalances of power amongst riparian states. The Mission is of the firm view that continued sanctions against Iraq are potentially stoking the fires of future conflict over water in the region.
The Mission therefore considers that the GAP project poses a real threat to future water supplies in Syria and Iraq. It urges the international community to press Turkey to halt further GAP projects until an agreement has been reached with Syria and Iraq that secures sustainable development of the Euphrates and Tigris. It believes that those communities that have suffered the adverse downstream consequences of GAP, in the form of reduced flows and deteriorating water quality, should be adequately compensated.