The Central and East European Bankwatch Network today released a report criticising BP for inadequately studying the environmental and social effects of the planned Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline.

The pipeline would connect offshore oilfields in the Caspian Sea with a tanker terminal at the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea.

According to Bankwatch, BP's Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) Draft Report for the Azerbaijan section of pipeline contains several flaws and does not comply with international standards. The environmental group's analysis of the ESIA found that the consultation and public participation process conducted by BP did not respect the provisions of the World Bank Group's Environmental Assessment Policy or the EBRD's Public Information and Environment Policy. Both the World Bank and the EBRD may help finance the pipeline's construction.

In addition, the ESIA does not comply with the European Union Directive on Environmental Assessment, the Aarhus Convention or the Espoo Convention – contrary to claims by BP.

Another criticism is that BP should have conducted a full Strategic Impact Assessment before holding separate country-level ESIAs for Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey. This conceptual error, says Bankwatch, is responsible for many of the deficiencies in the Azerbaijani ESIA document. Adds Manana Kochladze, Bankwatch's Caucasus Coordinator, "This is a complex pipeline with incredible impact on the whole region, especially considering its connection with the development of Caspian oil and gas fields. The existing studies completely ignore this fact."

BP's research contains other faults as well, according to the Bankwatch analysis. Data are often unreliable or based on secondary sources, public participation in social surveys was deficient, and viable alternative pipeline routes were either not assessed at all or the comparisons of alternatives was biased in favour of BP's preferred route. In Azerbaijan, most of the pipeline would run along the Kura river. "But BP gives no data proving that this route is the best, " says Kochladze. "When you're going to put an oil pipeline right next to a river, you better be able to show a good reason for doing so."

The pipeline also crosses a proposed National Park (the Gobustan Semi- desert Sensitive Habitat) and a proposed World Heritage Site (the Gobustan Cultural Reserve containing archaeological rock art sites). Another alternative route was rejected because of its supposed proximity to 'disputed' regions, without specifying the regions in question.

Note for editors:
The document is second of 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 ESIAs' main deficiencies and provide recommendations for improvements.