The biggest environmental case in Turkey

The biggest environmental case in Turkey

Are Native Americans luckier than people from our Black Sea province of Artvin? As I am writing this piece, I don’t know the answer to this question because the “Cerattepe” case, which is defined as Turkey’s biggest environmental case, was still ongoing in the Black Sea province of Rize. 

With 750 plaintiffs and 60 attorneys, the Cerattepe case is said to be the biggest environmental case not only in Turkey but in world history. 

What happened in North Dakota may have gone unnoticed because of our long holiday. The “Standing Rock” Sioux tribe has been staging protests to prevent an oil pipeline from crossing their land. This resistance was supported by other Native American tribes and many environmental activists. The Sioux objected because the pipeline would damage natural water resources and the graves of their ancestors. 

Who can know better than the local population how nature would be harmed and its effects? In the end, the White House demanded the company that was to build the pipeline freeze its activities for a few days ago to inspect the situation. 

Native Americans heaved a sigh of relief. 

From North Dakota to Artvin, which is sometimes called the Switzerland of the Black Sea, the local people of Artvin have been struggling for years not to sacrifice nature to mining.

With its unique nature and biodiversity, Artvin has two of the 40 natural parks of Turkey. The Green Artvin Association founded to protect the nature in Artvin is 20 years old. The association has won most of the cases it has opened against companies attempting to conduct mining activities there. 

I had shared this year’s Chamber of Architects prize with the head of the Green Artvin Association, a true fighter for nature, Nur Neşe Karahan. 

The number of companies ready to ruin such beautiful nature with cyanide for the sake of drilling valuable minerals such as copper and gold, to cut the trees, thus causing landslides, is far from being only a few.
The Artvin people, just like the Sioux people, know very well how nature is able to take revenge. They are right because their region is subject to frequent landslides due to the shrinking of Black Sea forests and climate change. Thus, the Artvin people, just like the Sioux people, have been on watch in the area for months, maybe for years. 

At Cerattepe, 5 kilometers from Artvin, Cengiz Holding wanted to start mining activities. This company is lately known for many state bids it has won, including the third airport in Istanbul. 

Cengiz Holding, which started mining activities in 2012 with its Eti Bakır Arama Company, of course, confronted the Artvin people. Several cases were opened. Mining in Cerattepe was banned in 2014; the decision was approved at a higher court. However, Cengiz Holding obtained a second Environmental Impact Assessment Report (ÇED); new cases were opened. The Cerattepe case that is ongoing in Rize has a political aspect, some people believe. 

I wonder if Ankara, like Washington, will come up with a “let us reconsider the situation one more time” decision.