Olive grove destruction bill needed for nuclear plant construction: Energy Ministry
A draft bill recently submitted to Parliament foresees permitting private investors to build energy facilities in olive groves. AA PhotoThe Energy Ministry says a controversial draft law that will lead to the destruction of olive groves “is necessary” for the construction of Turkey’s first nuclear plant planned in the southern coast amid a mounting campaign against the plans.
A draft bill recently submitted to Parliament foresees permitting private investors to build energy facilities, including plants that run on fossil fuels, military defense facilities and any form of construction in centuries-old olive groves.
According to a report on news website Bianet, a high-ranking official from the Energy Ministry defended the draft during the debate of the bill in the Agriculture and Forestry Commission at Parliament and said the bill change should be adapted to secure the construction of the nuclear plant in the Akkuyu district of the southern province of Mersin.
“If this law remains as it is, there will be a serious danger of not receiving the construction license, which means the construction of a $20-billion nuclear plant will be risked because of those groves,” deputy undersecretary İlker Sert reportedly said during the Commission session.
Noting the construction is aimed to begin in 2016, he said there are several olive groves three kilometers around the area where the nuclear plant will be built and these scattered groves are owned by private people, which requires a law for the expropriation of those lands.
Turkey’s first planned 4,800 megawatt (MW) plant, being built by Russia’s Rosatom and is aimed to beef up the country’s energy output, is already falling behind schedule, with the first reactor unlikely to be operational by 2019 as planned.
The project has already been the target of harsh public criticism for the destruction of green spaces, as well as endangering life at land and sea, where some endangered species, including Mediterranean monk seals loggerhead sea turtles, live.
Groves ‘obstacle for power plant in Soma’
Sert also reportedly claimed the current law on olive groves hampers construction of a thermal power plant in Aegean town of Soma.
Releasing a statement over the issue, environmentalist organization Greenpeace had claimed the olive groves in Soma have already been expropriated without waiting for the draft’s approval.
The government has been criticized for plans of expanding coal mines and permitting the construction of a new plant after a mining tragedy that killed 301 workers in May.
Turkish olive producers have launched petitions against the legislation that if approved will allow for energy firms to invest in their groves.
Producers condemn the law, stating that it is a “death sentence” for the olive groves, which are an important source of income for olive producers in western Turkey.
The current regulation only allows for the construction of renewable energy facilities that are more than three kilometers from the olive groves.