July 29, 2019

Turkish communities resist coal power destroying health and livelihoods in coastal region

As residents in the Muğla area, Turkey, resist the expansion of massive open-pit mines, a documentary and a special report show the dire impacts of coal on local communities

MUĞLA, Turkey — People in the region of Muğla, in southwestern Turkey, are mobilizing against the expansion of the open-pit lignite (coal) mines in the region, which are destroying the health and livelihoods of residents.
To support the communities in the region, 350 Turkey has partnered with Italian association Re:common to launch a documentary which supports the findings of an investigative report recently released by CAN-Europe.

While coal mines are already expanding, eating up olive groves and the houses of local residents, the region is also home to three coal-fired plants close to retirement age. The plants are responsible for polluting waterways and farms, as well as affecting residents’ health over a period of decades. These three plants, privatized in 2014, are currently scheduled for rehabilitation: their lifespan might extend for another 25 years with incalculable damage to the local ecosystem and the people living in their shadow. 

The Turkish government must abandon all future coal plans, phase out existing coal plants and shift to an energy model based on clean and renewable energy that respects communities” commented Efe Baysal, climate campaigner at 350 Turkey. “Those financial institutions which, like Italian bank Unicredit, are investing in the expansion of coal need to revisit their lending policies and finance instead a fast and just transition away from fossil fuels”.  

Stories of residents fighting against coal are portrayed in The Curse of Coal, a documentary that puts under a spotlight the devastating impacts of coal on the region. The documentary, produced by Re:common and Kibrit film, is a shocking overview of what coal has been causing to communities in Muğla.
“Last week we buried my sister-in-law due to asthma. In our village people suffer from asthma, COPD, all kinds of cancer” resident Tayyibe Demirel says in the documentary. Ms. Demirel has been fighting against the coal expansion to protect the olive trees that surrounds her village of Turgut.

A recent report by CAN-EUROPE, “The Real Costs of Coal” revealed what the actual price of generating power with coal, in terms of impacts on the environment and the people. The report also demonstrates how renewable energy projects can provide a viable alternative that takes into account the economic and social externalities of power generation.
Many villages are now empty, with people fleeing to other locations and having to start their lives from scratch, while newcomers who had come here from the city are finding out that their long awaited retirement immersed in nature has turned into a nightmare.