The “Beyond Coal Milas Report” highlights the potential for olive oil and pine honey production in the geographically protected region of Milas to serve as green alternatives to coal, creating secure and environmentally friendly employment opportunities.
The operation of two coal-fired power plants in Milas and the continuous expansion of coal mines are not only causing significant ecological damage but also resulting in human rights violations. In the Akbelen Forest, villagers have been tirelessly standing guard and engaging in legal battles for 661 days to prevent the deforestation for coal mining.
The report, titled “Beyond Coal Milas,” has been jointly prepared by the Karadam Karacahisar Neighborhoods Association for Nature Conservation, Beautification, and Solidarity (KARDOK), the Milas City Council, the Climate Action Network Europe (CAN Europe), and the 350 for Climate Association. It presents a roadmap for a fair exit from coal in Milas, incorporating local economic alternatives that can mitigate the potential negative impacts on employment.
What does a just transition mean?
A just transition, that is, moving away from coal, involves more than just eliminating coal from electricity generation. While it is technically feasible, the transformation encompasses not only technical aspects but also social and economic dimensions, as well as the need to address employment and skills. An effective energy transition should be fair and equitable, considering the well-being of both people and the environment. It should provide individuals with the opportunity to adapt to change and benefit from its outcomes without disregarding people’s or the environment’s welfare. Achieving this requires collaboration among governments, local authorities, business and financial institutions, trade unions, local communities, and environmental organizations to establish a comprehensive framework for a just transition that paves the way towards a net-zero economy.
During the discussions conducted in Milas as part of the report, various issues around coal were highlighted: air pollution, agricultural yield loss, decreased productivity of olive trees, an increase in cancer and respiratory diseases, and water scarcity. The most concerning problem related to coal was identified as the displacement of villagers through forced expropriation.
Although most of the community is looking for a transition away from coal, employment remains a crucial factor. Therefore, the report emphasizes that alternative sectors to mining and thermal power plants in the region should not only be economically viable but also safe, steering clear of methods that could potentially harm both people and other living beings. Moreover, these sectors should be attractive to young individuals, offering a sense of security.
Why is Milas olive oil trademarked?
According to the Turkish Patent Institute, the trade of olive oil has held significant importance in Milas since the era of the Ancient Karian Civilization. The reputation of Milas’ olive oil stems from the abundant cultivation of the high-quality Memecik olives, which have been grown in the area for centuries. Memecik olives only receive limited amounts of water naturally, resulting in an exceptional flavor. These small olives, produce a premium, naturally extracted olive oil with a yellow-green hue and a medium fruity aroma, with distinct citrus notes.
The report highlights the significance of Milas olive oil, which holds Turkey’s only European Union geographical protected indication, as well as the production of pine honey, showcasing them as alternative employment sectors in the region.
The report emphasizes the following key points regarding alternative employment to coal:
- Although the olive potential in Milas is not fully exploited, the local community sees a “Coal-Free Milas” as being synonymous with a future where agricultural productivity flourishes, and olive and olive oil production regain their prominence.
- Investments in olive cultivation have the potential to generate new jobs in Milas, equivalent to the annual capacity provided by thermal power plants and nearly matching the employment opportunities in the mining sector.
- By supporting an economy centered around olives, the production of EU protected geographical indication Milas olive oil can increase from 100 tons to eight times that amount, resulting in a value shift from 4.5 million TL to 60 million TL (based on 2021 data).
- Approximately 75-80% of pine honey production in Turkey takes place in Muğla. Beekeeping and bees play a critical role in preserving the region’s biodiversity and ecological balance. To rejuvenate the appeal of beekeeping in the area, an ecologically conscious approach that adapts to the effects of climate change should be promoted. This could be complemented by providing training and incentives around beekeeping.
- There is potential to develop ecotourism in the region, including gastronomical tourism. Emphasizing organic farming could also be a focus.
- Renewable energy power plants could be installed in the region, designed to be environmentally friendly and non-disruptive to agricultural activities. These plans could be developed with the active participation of the local community.
- Efforts could be made to promote the traditional art of Milas carpet weaving. Additionally, establishing facilities for processing forest products would be beneficial for the region.