Activist completes paddle against nuclear plants along Black Sea coast

Activist completes paddle against nuclear plants along Black Sea coast

Activist completes paddle against nuclear plants along Black Sea coast

Hüseyin Ürkmez’s voyage marked the latest solo environmental demonstration in Turkey. DHA Photo

An amateur rower has arrived in Istanbul after completing an epic three month journey along the Black Sea coast, which he undertook to draw attention to the danger of nuclear plants in a region hit by a manic spree of ecology-damaging energy investments.

Ürkmez was sailing as part of the “Paddle For a Nuclear Free Turkey, Black Sea” of the anti-nuclear website and NGO and the Association of Green Thinking (Yeşil Düşünce Derneği). The campaign also received the support of the Turkish Platform Against Nuclear, the Green and Left Party of the Future, as well as several local associations and unions.

Hüseyin Ürkmez was greeted by a group of environmental activists as he arrived at the Ortaköy port on the European shore of the Bosphorus on Nov. 2, three months after setting out from Hopa, on the other extreme of the Black Sea in northeastern Turkey.

“I wanted to draw attention to demands for a nuclear free country only through my physical strength. If there is one thing as difficult as rowing against the current, it is [challenging] the government’s calculations. So I showed my opposition with this symbolic demonstration,” Ürkmez said on arrival in Istanbul.

The construction of Turkey’s first nuclear plant has started in Akkuyu, on the country’s Mediterranean coast, while a second plant is planned near the Black Sea port of Sinop, amid much local controversy. Meanwhile, Turkish government officials also recently announced that a third plant will be built by Turkish engineers after accumulating experience from the construction of the first two plants.

Ürkmez faced many difficulties throughout his 1,400-kilometer journey, with stormy weather forcing him to take shelter for a few days in the Karasu port, northeast of Istanbul, tantalizingly close to his final destination of Ortaköy.

The crowd in Istanbul greeted him with slogans such as “the wind and the sun are enough for us,” while a young child read out a poem by the legendary Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet devoted to Hiroshima.

Despite a few glitches, Ürkmez managed to stop at all symbolic sites and hotspots along his route, including the town of Sinop, where a Japanese-French consortium is set to build what will become the country’s second nuclear plant at an estimated cost of $22 billion.

Ürkmez’s voyage marks the latest solo environmental demonstration in Turkey, after Timur Danış walked from Istanbul to Sinop and then onto the Mediterranean city of Mersin, a total journey of 4,000 kilometers. Another activist, Deniz Güman, also recently rode the same route on her bicycle, before ending her trip at the site of the Akkuyu nuclear plant, while Özgür Gürbüz made the unusual choice of walking backwards for the 180 km separating Mersin from Akkuyu.