100-200 trees shouldn’t stop Turkey’s development: Energy minister
Kolin’s workers have already cut down more than 1,000 trees to clear the field for construction near the Yırca village in Soma. DHA PhotoEnergy Minister Taner Yıldız has defended the controversial razing of an olive grove for the construction of a coal plant in the mining town of Soma, arguing that “100-200 trees shouldn’t stop Turkey’s development.”
Yıldız’s words, which evoked President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s dismissive remarks about “a few trees” during last summer’s massive Gezi Park protests, came a day after a group of local activists were beaten by the constructor company’s private security guards while trying to stop a bulldozer from cutting down olive trees. In another echo of Gezi, a young woman had tear gas sprayed directly in her face as she was handcuffed by the company’s security.
Yıldız, who spent days in Soma following the mining disaster in the town that killed 301 workers in May, stressed that the coal mine investors were ready to plant “one hundred times” the amount of olive trees cut down in the land elsewhere.
“Investments don’t come to the area that you choose, but to where coal can be extracted,” he said.
Kolin İnşaat, which is one of the five companies in the winning consortium for Istanbul’s third airport and which is known for its close ties to the government, has made an investment worth $1.3 billion near the Yırca plant for the third coal plant in Soma.
The plans came after a law enabling energy investments in olive grove land, which was controversially passed by Parliament recently.
But many locals, for whom olives are the second source of income after coal, have opposed the project and volunteered to stand guard to protect the land in order to prevent the destruction of its trees. Despite the fact that the appeal against a Cabinet decision approving urgent expropriation is still ongoing, Kolin’s workers have already cut down more than 1,000 trees to clear the field for construction.