TBILISI (GEORGIA) – The CEE Bankwatch Network today released a report critical of an environmental and social impact assessment (EIA) of the Baku -Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline. Bankwatch’s report, a quality analysis of the EIA for the pipeline’s Turkish section, criticises the BTC company — led by BP (formerly British Petroleum) — for inadequately assessing the effects of the planned pipeline.
The report criticises the BTC company for not adequately taking into account the pipeline’s potential damage to environmentally sensitive areas. Although the EIA claims that the pipeline’s final route selection was done in order to minimise potential negative impacts, Bankwatch reports that “the route crosses several Internationally Important Wetlands, two sites protected under Turkish legislation and 49 ecologically sensitive areas.” Furthermore, BTC company was more concerned with saving money than protecting the environment or nearby residents: “It is evident that changes in the pipeline route were dominantly driven by technical and economic considerations, and to a much lesser extent by social and ecological limitations,” says the Bankwatch report.
While the EIA is an improvement over similar documents done for the pipeline’s Georgian and Azerbaijani sections, it is still inadequate in Bankwatch’s view. “There were problems in all areas, ” says Manana Kochladze, Bankwatch’s Caucasus coordinator, “They [the BTC company] didn’t do enough to find a better route, they underestimated the pipeline’s risks to people and the environment, there are no adequate mitigation measures or emergency response plans, and public participation in the whole EIA procedure was less than desirable.”
Proper public involvement has, in fact, been an ongoing issue — especially in Georgia and Azerbaijan, which have little democratic tradition. But even in Turkey, the public was not properly informed about the pipeline’s potential impacts on their lives. For example, the EIA researchers contented themselves with gathering information from local muhtars (village or community leaders) because it was supposedly too politically sensitive to ask the people directly. Questionnaires and information leaflets were blatantly biased and contained project-promoting questions. Furthermore, the EIA claims to have consulted either directly or by telephone approximately 270 communities within or near the pipeline corridor. Yet of these rural settlements only half of those visited by an international fact-finding mission had received any form of consultation at all.
The CEE Bankwatch Network is a coalition of environmental organisations from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The network’s mission is to prevent environmentally and socially harmful impacts of international development finance, and to promote alternative solutions and public participation.
The BTC pipeline would connect offshore oilfields in the Caspian Sea with a tanker terminal at the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea.
NOTE FOR EDITORS:
The document is the last in a series of three CEE Bankwatch Network studies analysing the quality of the BTC ESIA Draft Reports and the associated Environmental Assessment (EA) Procedure. Bankwatch quality analyses outline EIAs’ or ESIAs’ main deficiencies and provide recommendations for improvement.