On Saturday, the Turkish Black Sea town of Gerze — population 11,260 — was host to a 10,000-strong protest against a coal-fired power plant. Protesters arrived from all over the country to march and chant, undeterred by recent violent police crackdowns against environmental protests in the town’s province, Sinop.
In September, for example, the police responded to a smaller protest in the village of Yaylık (also in Sinop province) by beating peaceful activists with truncheons, injuring twenty-five people and spraying so much tear gas into the air that a nearby forest caught on fire.
Peaceful protesters propose green energy solutions
Saturday’s protest unfolded peacefully, however. Organized by a Gerze platform formed to oppose the plant, and attended by members of the Green Party, Greenpeace Mediterranean, and the Ecology Collective, the 10,000 protesters called on the Anadolu Group (the Turkish corporate investor behind the project) to cancel the plant and build a wind farm instead.
“The pollution that is going to be caused by that plant will affect the environment, health, economy, climate and the [people’s] livelihood beyond repair,” said Pınar Aksoğan, head of Greenpeace’s Mediterranean Climate and Energy Campaign, at the protest.
“We call on the Anadolu Group… to listen to the voice of thousands of people and refrain from this investment for a green Gerze before it is too late. We invite you to take a step towards the energy reform with investing in clean wind energy instead and not in outdated coal.”
Sinop: A luckless region
Gerze’s population has been fighting the Anadolu Group’s proposed coal-fired plant for the past three years. Townsfolk staged their own “occupy” movement in August, when they set up tents on the construction site, physically blocking the plant from being built.
But Sinop residents are used to resisting corporate projects that threaten their local environment, health, and livelihoods.
Sinop is also the proposed location for a nuclear power plant, part of a nuclear energy campaign that Turkey’s energy ministry seems determined to pursue, despite the fact that Sinop and Akkuyu, the other proposed site, both lie very close to active fault lines. And few longtime residents of the country’s northern coast have forgotten the radiation fall-out from the Chernobyl meltdown twenty-five years ago.
No help should be expected from the government, which is notoriously permissive of polluting, carelessly planned thermal power projects in Turkey.
But hopefully the number of protesters out in Gerze’s streets on Saturday have shown the Anadolu Group the sheer force of opposition it is up against.
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Image via Bianet