Yirca is a small village in Soma district of Manisa. Manisa is famous with its grape production whereas Soma is famous with its lignite coal. Due to global climate change related weather abnormalities in 2015, grape farmers had a big loss in their crops. Meanwhile, the feasibility studies for the second coal power plant in Soma is concluded, awaiting its license, on the second year of the Soma coal mine explosion where 301 miners have lost their lives.
Soma fulfills 10% of Turkey’s energy need due to its lignite reserve. The area attracts investors to mining and burning lignite, the dirtiest form of coal to be mined and burned.
Currently there is one exiting coal power plant and the second one is planned by Turkish government and handed to Kolin company via a royalty agreement.
The royalty agreement signed with Kolin gave the company the initiative to start constructing the coal infrastructure in Yirca village of Soma, in 2014. While the environmental impact assessment process in addition to the court cases opened against the company (by Greenpeace and Yirca villagers) and the “emergency expropriation” of the olive groves carried on, Kolin workers violently took out 6,666 olive trees. See the trailer of the short movie, The Tree of Eternity: Yirca Resistance
- Villager from Yirca near the taken out olive tree, Soma: “It takes decades of care and patience to have fruits from olive trees. Then they get chopped for the construction of a coal mine. We don’t want to be economically dependent on coal.”
- Yirca village headman, Mustafa Akin, also one of the activists mobilized against the company, Kolin: “Our olives are gone now, we’re trying to keep our land with the saplings we’re planting. Many of the villagers will not have a chance to get the products of them, but we all plant new trees for our children and grandchildren.”
- Yirca villager, local activist Adnan Inal: “If we don’t act against coal, they will make us dependent to the thermal plant and the coal mine.”
Greenpeace and Yirca villagers have immediately mobilized hundreds of people from all around Turkey to occupy the olive groves, to block the company workers entrance in the territory. There was a lot of physical violence while the mass resistance continued for almost one month. The resistance turned into a victory and the decision for emergency expropriation of land, given to Kolin, got cancelled.
What is the situation now? While Yirca villagers have started to replant their olive trees for their children and grandchildren, Kolin found another village in Soma -where there aren’t any olive groves- to realize its coal plans as agreed with the Turkish government. By late June, the company has organized an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report meeting in Kayrakalti village, Kolin’s new coal zone, to have villagers opinion. Resit Elcin, Greenpeace Turkey campaigner, who went there to attend the meeting says: “It was more of a recruitment meeting than an EIA one. None of the matters related to pollution were discussed while the number of local people to be employed they announced in the meeting (2500) was way more than what was mentioned in the report (1500). However, I didn’t get a chance to speak about this. The moment I got the microphone, the company workers and villagers with employment hopes physically pushed me out of the meeting hall.”
Green jobs, green employment initiatives and a just transition model should be developed at local, national, regional and global level. The way to a just transition should be discussed by people living in rural areas who are economically dependent on jobs provided by coal infrastructures, mines and power plants.
Read this article on coal miners vs. olive farmers dilemma in the area.
All photos by Kerem Yucel / CAN Europe 2015