Turkey Tuesday signed a deal with an international consortium for a loan of 1.2 billion euros ($1.63 billion) to build a major dam on the Tigris River, the Anatolia news agency reported.
The project for the Ilisu Dam, to be completed with a hydroelectric power plant, was launched in August 2006.
The consortium extending the loan includes 14 companies, among them Turkey's Water Management Authority, as well as financiers from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, Anatolia reported.
"This was one of our most difficult projects ... It has become a project of pride and determination," Energy Minister Hilmi Guler said.
The dam, to be built outside Dargecit town, 45 kilometers (28 miles) from the Syrian border, is scheduled to become operational in 2014.
At the core of opposition to the project is nearby Hasankeyf, an ancient town, part of which will be submerged by the dam's giant reservoir.
Critics say the project will destroy Hasankeyf's unique heritage - which includes Assyrian, Roman, and Ottoman monuments - and ruin the traditional way of life of its population of ethnic Kurds and Arabs.
In a bid to halt the project, activists have petitioned the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, and urged foreign creditors to withhold loans for the facility.
Supporters counter that the dam, part of a large, decade-old plan to boost economic development in the poor, mainly Kurdish southeast, will create up to 10,000 jobs, pave the way for fisheries, irrigate vast areas of farmland, and provide vital energy for Turkey's flourishing economy.
The dam will become Turkey's second-largest water reservoir, and fourth-largest power-producing facility, generating 3.8 billion kWh of electricity annually.
Officials say 80 percent of Hasankeyf's archaeological sites - including tombs and hundreds of cave houses, already damaged by nature's impact and years of negligence - will remain above the planned waterline.
The monuments that would be flooded will be relocated to a planned, open-air museum nearby.
Last Mod: 15 Ağustos 2007, 19:23