Select Committee on Trade and Industry Twelfth Report



58. The Government's third condition was that there should be an "assurance that adequate downstream water flows will be maintained at all times". This reflected concerns that there might be interruptions to downstream flows to Iraq during the one and a half or two year period of "impounding" — that is, the filling up of the reservoir — and that thereafter there might be other interruptions either because of shortage of water or the use by the Turkish authorities of water as a "weapon".

2000 Report and reply

59. We recommended in our February 2000 Report —

  • that there be a published assurance that the required consultation of neighbouring states has indeed been carried out by the Turkish authorities;[23] the Government's reply accepted this recommendation, creating in effect a fifth condition.[24]


60. We learned nothing in the course of our visit and briefings which significantly altered our general views on the question of downstream flows. The further written material which has come to us from various sources confirms our view that the anxieties expressed by Syria have more to do with the impounding of the Ataturk dam some years ago and other related events than with Ilisu. Iraq has a more obvious interest, but it would seem that it has substantial and underused water resources on the Tigris, including those parts which rise in its own territory. Water is indeed said to be transferred from the Tigris to the Euphrates within the territory of Iraq.

Formula for downstream flow

61. We were given some detailed figures by the Turkish authorities on the seasonal flows of the Tigris, which underlined the huge variation between dry years and wet years and between the dry season and the wet season. The minimum rate of discharge proposed is, we understand, to be 60 m3 a second to be released between April and October, and 100 m3 a second for the rest of the year, with a guarantee of half of any additional volumes above those figures. If water flows do not come up to even minimum expectations, the impounding will be delayed rather than discharges reduced. With one unit working, discharges would be 218 m3 a second. We were also led to understand that the drawdown — the range between maximum and minimum operating levels for the reservoir — would indeed be no more than 15 metres, rather than the 40 metres envisaged at one time. [25]

Irrigation schemes

62. It has been repeatedly stressed by those promoting the dam that it is a hydro-electric project and not an irrigation project, and that there can be no question of the reservoir being used for any serious length of time to withhold water, even if that were desired by the Turkish authorities. That is strictly true. It has however become clear to us that —

  • The project to irrigate the 32,000 hectare Silopi plain area on the east bank of the Tigris, downstream of the proposed Cizre dam, will further diminish the Tigris flow to the south.

63. We have no reason to believe that these schemes are not allowed for in the formula for minimum releases reached by the US Eximbank engineers and signed up to by the Turkish authorities. The Turkish authorities have not sought to conceal these irrigation projects; indeed, it is from their published documentation that we have established the details. It is nonetheless important that there should be an assurance that the take-off of these waters does not diminish the minimum assured water flow, which can presumably be measured at the point of the Tigris leaving Turkish territory, and that the EIAR addresses any question of water quality arising from the volumes of returned water from irrigation projects downstream of Ilisu.


64. A year ago we recommended "an independent expert assessment of the formula for the maintenance of downstream flows".[26] The Government reply, perhaps through inadvertence, did not directly address this point; it merely recorded that "ECGD will be discussing with the other ECAs the downstream flow regime".[27] It is little comfort to us to know that the ECGD will be discussing it with other ECAs, presumably all equally unversed in the technicalities of such matters. US Eximbank engineers are not exactly independent. We are well aware of the figures referred to by the Turkish authorities in their many publications on the seasonal variation in the flow of the Tigris. What we recommended a year ago, and repeat now with greater urgency, is that the ECAs should satisfy themselves through independent technical analysis that the proposed formula for downstream flows is equitable in all the circumstances.

Consultation of neighbouring states

65. The "fifth condition" of a published assurance of consultation with the neighbouring states has not to the best of our knowledge been fulfilled. We saw for ourselves the evidence of close commercial links between Iraq and Turkey, in the shape of oil tankers on the roads of south eastern Anatolia. There is no reason for Turkey not to be able to show evidence of at least a genuine attempt to engage in consultation with Iraq. We accept that Syria has a less immediate concern and that it may seek to broaden the discussion beyond the narrow question of Ilisu. That is for each country to decide; it does not render impossible the condition that Turkey should have sought consultation. Published confirmation that Turkey has consulted neighbouring states is, to the best of our knowledge, still awaited.

21  HC 200, para 24 Back

22  HC 482, page vi Back

23  HC 200, para 25 Back

24  HC 482, page vi Back

25  HC 200, para 24 (a) Back

26  HC 200, para 24 Back

27  HC 482, page vi Back

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