Turkish ministry orders villagers to ‘keep’ 6,000 dead olive trees felled for coal plant
Plans for the coal plant near Soma were eventually scrapped after the Council of State ruled against the Cabinet’s expropriation order. DHA PhotoVillagers in Yırca near the Aegean coal capital of Soma, who were unable to prevent the illegal cutting down of some 6,000 olive trees to build a power plant, have now been obligated to keep hold of the felled trees by the agricultural minister.
Plans for the coal plant were eventually scrapped after the Council of State ruled against the Cabinet’s expropriation order, but the company that won the tender, Kolin, had already cut down more than 6,000 trees despite opposition from local activists.
Farmers were forced to harvest olives from the trees that have been uprooted by the firm. Now, officials from Ankara have ordered them to keep and protect the dying trees until the conclusion of the judicial process against the company.
“We couldn’t protect them when they were planted, now they are asking us to protect their bodies. It’s like killing your child, taking him from your hands and then telling you to ‘keep his corpse.’ They must be joking,” said Mustafa Akın, the muhtar of the village.
According to legislation, the trees are now considered public property, as the expropriation process was canceled. The company, meanwhile, has received a fine for each felled tree.
Officials from the Agriculture Ministry determined the total number of felled trees after several raids conducted by Kolin as 6,666.
Locals and activists sue firm for beatings
Violence against activists guarding the site by the contractor’s private security force, with the connivance of local authorities, caused a national outcry.
Several local villagers and activists who were beaten during those night raids have filed complaints against Kolin and private officials. However, villagers expressed fresh outrage after gendarmerie officials took testimonies from some of the villagers, including women, considered “suspects.”
The Council of State has made it clear that the verdict could not be appealed and said there was no public interest in building the power plant on the olive grove.