Nature and history butchered for coal

Nature and history butchered for coal

On one side there is Bodrum; on the other side there is Marmaris. At the center of this paradise lies the Yatağan Thermal Power Station with its giant polluting capacity.

This power station started energy production with three of its units in 1985. Then local groups and lawyers appealed to relevant ministries, TEAŞ and the Muğla Governor’s Office for the closure of the power station because of its negative effects on human health and the environment. They did not even reply.

Several cases were opened; in 1996, experts decided to stop production at the station, but when the courts rejected the closure, it was taken to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In 2005, the ECHR fined Turkey for harming the rights of the applicants. The Environment Minister of the time, Osman Pepe, even said they would have to close down the power station at Yatağan if border values for human health were exceeded. 

Yatağan was not closed at that time; it was privatized in 2014 together with the mine providing coal for it. The life of a thermal power station is a maximum of 35 years, but Yatağan’s life was extended when privatized. Trucks are constantly carrying coal to the plant. At present, Yatağan, which is the oldest and most unproductive power station in Turkey, one that has to retire, is almost “drinking” the low quality lignite coal excavated from the area.

It has to enlarge the lignite zone that provides coal to it. The plant is at an ever-burning unproductive state.

When the coal zone was enlarged in 2012, the Yeşilbağcılar village, which had a 4,500-year-old history and 10 olive trees that were 800 years old, had to be relocated when coal was found underneath. Both the village and the 109-year-old mosque were promised to be moved together to one location, but when TOKİ houses were insufficient, 187 more houses were built on cheap land allocated by the municipality. The villagers were divided over it and the village was scattered. The mosque was not moved.

People who were moved to TOKİ houses will have to move again in a couple of years because talk is that there is coal under their new houses.

After the Yeşilbağcılar village, next is the Turgut village. It has been decided for the 93-plot olive grove near the Turgut village to be nationalized. The village’s fresh water source is below this grove. The drinking water of the village is at risk. Once heavy machinery goes into the area, the entire water source will be damaged.

Once the olive trees that hold the soil are removed, then the village located on the slope will be prone to landslides. Another village is about to be forced to relocate. Turgut will not only lose its family business farms and olive groves but there is a historic site within the village: Lagina. The Hekate Temple there attracts tourists from all over the world as the worshipping center of paganism for thousands of years. A new thermal power plant is planned to be built 150 meters from the temple. Its construction has been planned since 2007.

In short, on one hand there are plans to expand the mining zone of the Yatağan power plant that should have been closed long ago, while on the other hand there is the new thermal power plant plan that jeopardizes the Turgut village, its olive groves and the archeological site, which is one of the centers for faith tourism. It is not acceptable to butcher nature and its historic heritage in exchange for coal. It’s a pity.