Turkish villagers in bitter harvest from chopped olive trees
MANİSA - Anadolu Agency
AA PhotoVillagers in the Aegean town of Yırca, where an energy company with close links to the government cut down 6,000 olive trees for a thermal power plant construction last week, has harvested the olives of the felled trees for the last time.
Construction of the thermal plant was stopped by a Council of State decision amid allegations that the contractor, Kolin İnşaat, deliberately cut down the thousands of trees in the middle of the night because it knew it was going to lose the case.
As the trees were cut a week ago, their olives can only be used for oil, the villagers said, adding that these salvaged olives would not bring in much money but they wanted to harvest them so they would not go to waste.
Erdem Öksüz, a Yırca villager, said 2.5 hectares of his land had been expropriated and all the olive trees on the land had been cut.
“All the trees we had have been cut down. We do not know what we will do next year, the future is dark. If there had been an open coal mine I would consider working there, but all of them are closed and the ones that are open do not admit new workers,” said Öksüz, adding that he was not against a new power plant being opened but was against its construction on the land where there were olive trees.
Kolin İnşaat was given permission to build a coal plant on the olive grove in Yırca with a “rapid expropriation” decision by the state. Villagers and local activists had stood guard for nearly a month to prevent the company from clearing the area of trees for construction. However, the firm forcefully cut down around 6,000 trees and its security guards beat up villagers who resisted, hours before Turkey’s Council of State canceled the “rapid expropriation” decision on Nov. 7.
Öksüz said the villagers had thought they had nothing more to do when the state decided to expropriate their lands, adding that the villagers only became more aware after environmental NGOs came to the area and informed them about the harm that would be caused by the plant.
“The villagers are more conscious now, saying the power plant should not be built here. We made the judicial applications. The Council of State has reached its decision. We will do whatever the trial process shows,” he said. “If the thermal power plant is not constructed then we will continue olive production, but if it is built then we will go and work there.”