By Joop Hazenberg On

In Uncategorized

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Iskenderun Bay has one of the most diverse terrestrial and marine ecosystems in Turkey. 20% of citrus production comes from this area and a majority of local people earn their lives from fishing, production of vegetables, fruit, olives and olive oil.

With increasing number of planned new coal power plants in addition to fast pace industrialization, Iskenderun Bay is becoming the most polluted region of Turkey where it is getting more and more difficult for local people to sustain their lives.

Currently there are 3 coal power plants in the area between Adana and Hatay, and there are 29 more either in the licensing, impact assessment or constructions phases.

Grassroots groups, such as ICKD (Iskenderun Environmental Protection Association), Adana CETKO (Environmental Protection Association), East Mediterranean Environmental Platform have been struggling against coal power plants, mines and other coal infrastructure to protect rights to live in a healthy environment has been going on since mid-90s. TEMA and Greenpeace have been supporting the local struggle in solidarity.

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The Sugozu plant

Sadun Bolukbasi, current president of Adana CETKO, Adana-Erzin: "Our region receives sunshine, 10 months a year. Why not investing in solar energy, instead of coal? We would like to live with sunshine rather than suffocate with coal! We have been opening court cases against licensing of these coal power plants, some of them start operating even before the court's decision. So far we have opened 13 court cases to cancel the operational licenses, 3 of which are won and one of which has started operating despite the case is still open."
Sadun Bolukbasi, current president of Adana CETKO, Adana-Erzin: “Our region receives sunshine, 10 months a year. Why not investing in solar energy, instead of coal? We would like to live with sunshine rather than suffocate with coal! We have been opening court cases against licensing of these coal power plants, some of them start operating even before the court’s decision. So far we have opened 13 court cases to cancel the operational licenses, 3 of which are won and one of which has started operating despite the case is still open.”
Durdane Erdoguk, 56, Kurtpinari-Adana: "We live in coal dust for the last three years, since there's a big, open-air coal storage area next to our village. We breathe coal, we eat coal, we drink coal. I don't want to be displaced because of it; I want to live on my land free of coal."
Durdane Erdoguk, 56, Kurtpinari-Adana: “We live in coal dust for the last three years, since there’s a big, open-air coal storage area next to our village. We breathe coal, we eat coal, we drink coal. I don’t want to be displaced because of it; I want to live on my land free of coal.”
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Gulnaz Killi, 50, in front of the coal power plant, Sariseki- Iskenderun: “In our village, there is no single house without a family member suffering from respiratory diseases due to industrial production (mostly iron and steel, ) and coal power plants. My 9-year-old grandson has asthma, so as the children of most of our neighbors. It’s their right to live and grow up in a healthy, sustainable environment. I have been in active in our struggle since 1999 and now our community in Sariseki is facing displacement due to the interests of the coal industry.”

Much of the fight is focused on the health and pollution impacts as this ecologically diversified region is systematically polluted and local people have been suffering from respiratory diseases. For the last one year, doctors’ associations and Turkish thorax association are also involved in order to raise awareness on the dangerous health impacts of coal among medical staff.

What is even more worrying is that dangerous chemicals such as sulphur oxides have been emitted in the region due to the intensification of industrial activities, especially of fertilizers. With the mercury and pm2.5 emissions being released from coal power plants are endangering local people’s livelihoods.

See a recent report on the health impacts released by HEAL. Also, check out Greenpeace Turkey’s report on coal, The Silent Killer.

Imported coal is being brought to Iskenderun Bay by ship, offloaded and then transported to indoor, outdoor coal storage, packaging areas by trucks. Due to a recent legislation, these storage areas have to be installed at least five kilometers away from the sea. Therefore they are installed in the villages where people have to inhale coal dust constantly, especially when there is wind coming from the sea.

One of these outdoor coal packaging areas is in Kurtpinari village, 10 meters away from the well where drinking water for the village comes from.

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International financiers of coal should withdraw from this region. In Turkey, it is not easy to find data about the financing parties. The European coal community can help get information on the finances of coal infrastructure in this region, in order to pinpoint a common target audience. Sadun Bolukbasi: “We shouldn’t have left the companies enter in our territories, that’s it! This is how our counterparts in Gerze have won their struggle. Once they start feasibility work, it becomes unfortunately too late to have effective impact.”

About the victory of the Gerze local struggle, see the Sierra Club report on international victories against coal.

Role of France

France is pursuing double standards in its preparation to the Climate Summit of Paris in December. On the one hand the government increases climate finance and bans export credits for coal, on the other hand the (partly) state-owned companies Engie and EDF operate large coal activities – mainly outside Europe. Together these companies own 46 coal power plants globally.

Engie even wants to build more coal capacity, planning the Ada Yumurtalik plant in Turkey (1320 MW), plus building and extending plants in Mongolia, Brazil and Chile. CAN Europe published a pdf briefing (737 KB) on these coal activities.

In October 2015, a range of NGOs, mainly from France and Turkey, sent a letter to French president Hollande, urging him to end Engie’s coal projects in Turkey ahead of the Paris Climate Summit. The letter is included in the briefing.

Elif Gunduzyeli from Climate Action Network Europe adds: ‘Turkey is showing a complete lack in climate ambition and plans to build 75 new power plants. The country could become a real climate bomb. Taking French support for these plans off the table, will limit the chances that the country will lock itself into fossil fuel dependency for decades to come.’

All photos by Kerem Yucel/ CAN Europe 2015