Turkish firm ‘sad’ after cutting down olive trees

Turkish firm ‘sad’ after cutting down olive trees

Banu ŞEN
Turkish firm ‘sad’ after cutting down olive trees A Turkish energy company that drew public ire by cutting down thousands of olive trees in a small Aegean town for a controversial coal plant project has defended itself in its first statement since the incident.

“We feel a serious sadness for the villagers. Money has a secondary role here,” Kolin İnşaat’s Energy Group Chair Murat Zekeriya Aydın told daily Hürriyet in an interview, admitting that the company was evaluating the situation to find out “where and when it erred.”

Kolin İnşaat cut down around 6,000 olive trees in the Yırca village of Manisa province and its security officers beat up villagers who resisted the land expropriation for the planned coal plant. However, hours after the incident it was announced that the Council of State had canceled the rapid expropriation decision.

Aydın said the “conscience” of Kolin İnşaat was “not comfortable,” but suggested that the villagers were “abused by those who felt uncomfortable with this project.”

Kolin İnşaat had won a tender to exploit coal reserves in Soma, after which it planned to build a coal plant in Yırca. “We won the project by presenting a price that I can describe as record-breaking,” Aydın said. “155 million Turkish Liras would have been paid to the state every year.”

According to Aydın’s account, the villagers were receptive to the project during meetings last year, and their only concern was pollution, not olive trees.

“I wish we knew [what happened then],” he said, adding that the company met all the demands of the villagers but “resistance started” when a small amount of land had to be worked on urgently on Sept. 15.

“The incidents began then, but their seeds were sown previously by certain groups,” Aydın said, hinting that some people may have tried to sabotage the project, without going into details.

“We couldn’t fight against those people who put us against the respected locals, whom we were working with in harmony before. We were inefficient in this regard,” Aydın said, also arguing that the beating of villagers was the result of “self-defence” by security guards.