Energy firm’s security beats locals as more trees wiped out in Soma olive grove
One of the villagers, who was severely hit by the guards on the head lies on the ground before being transported to the hospital, late Nov. 6. DHA PhotoThe private security of an energy company constructing a controversial coal plant on olive groves in the western Turkish locality of Soma beat a villager late Nov. 6 before proceeding to cut down more than 5,000 trees in the area amid locals’ resistance.
The incident occurred just three weeks after the beating of a number of local activists by the same security guards, which had prompted significant outcry on social media.
Kolin, an energy firm known for its close ties with the government that has been given permission to build a coal plant on the olive grove in the Yırca village near the disaster-struck Aegean coal capital, has wiped out almost all the trees that were standing in the area after the private security’s crackdown, witnesses said.
Villagers and local activists had been standing guard for nearly a month to prevent the company from clearing the area of trees for the construction as a lawsuit against the urgent expropriation decision for the land is still ongoing.
Around 5,000 trees were cut down in Yırca in the
early hours of Nov. 7.
Other four people were reportedly handcuffed to be dragged outsied the olive plantation.
“There were 5,000 trees left. They have cut them down all,” said Özgür Özel, a main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party’s (CHP) Manisa lawmaker who had joined the activists in their action.
While locals accused gendarmerie forces of only arriving at the site after the damage was done, Özel accused local officials of deliberately not taking measures despite his warnings.
“If the Council of State suspends the construction, will the governor give all these trees back?” he asked.
Kolin İnşaat was also one of the five constructor companies among the winning consortium for Istanbul’s controversial third airport.
Özel also said the private security officers were hired from among poor young locals from the nearby villagers. “They make the sons of villagers beat villagers for three cents. What a shame! May this mindset be damned,” he said.
The construction was enabled by a controversial law allowing the building of energy facilities within olive groves. The law has been described as “necessary” by the energy minister, who stressed the need for such measures for the construction of Turkey’s first nuclear plant in the southern locality of Akkuyu and for digging new coal plants.
But producers warned that it could result as a “death sentence” for the olive oil sector and many regions whose major income relies on olives.