Coal plant project in western Turkish coast threatens seals and sea turtles

Coal plant project in western Turkish coast threatens seals and sea turtles

Coal plant project in western Turkish coast threatens seals and sea turtles

Many seals live in an underwater cave near the area in Karabiga where the coal plant is planned. DHA Photo

A coal plant project planned in Turkey's southwestern Marmara coast is threatening the habitat of Mediterranean seals and loggerhead turtles, experts from a number of institutions have warned.

However, the constructor company Cengiz Holding has not only ignored the warnings, but prepared a counter expert report claiming that both species could "tolerate” the change in water temperatures that would result from the discharge of water used to cool down the facility.

The $2 billion dollar plant, set to be built near Karabiga in Çanakkale on the shores of the Marmara Sea’s southern coast, is raising controversy as concerns about both endangered species’ were ultimately ignored in the environmental impact assessment report (ÇED), which stating that there were “no protected area under the Berne Convention in the project field and its surroundings.”

Turkey is a party to the Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife but rarely weighs environmental concerns to halt energy projects.

The Natural Parks Directory, which assessed the initial environmental report prepared by the Environment Ministry, rejected claims that there were no Mediterranean seals in the region, stressing that there are many seals living in an underwater cave near the area where the plant is planned. It also recommended that ministry officials “indicate the possibility that seals could be affected following a temperature change in the habitat.” Experts also specified that loggerhead turtles, also known as caretta caretta, were also inhabiting the coast, urging compliance with the Berne Convention.

The Sea and Coast Department of the Environment Ministry echoed the same concerns, recommending that comments made by experts being taken into consideration.

However, Cengiz Holding responded with its own assessment report, prepared by a scholar at the Black Sea Technical University in Trabzon, which claimed that both seals and sea turtles “could tolerate large temperature differences.”

The ministry eventually finalized its environmental impact assessment report on Oct. 12 without mentioning any concerns regarding the threat the plant caused for both endangered species. The report is expected to be officially approved soon, reports said.

Cengiz Holding, known for its close ties to the government, is among the five companies of a consortium that won a multi-billion dollar tender for Istanbul’s highly controversial third airport. An assets injunctions imposed on the company’s owner, Mehmet Cengiz, as part of an aborted corruption probe – also known as the Dec. 25 process – was removed after massive purges within the judiciary led to the handovers in the leading prosecutors of the case.

Çanakkale is one of the provinces most affected by the pollution of several coal plants, particularly in the Kaz Mountain Range, which is considered an ecological haven by many environmentalists.