Get With the Times, Turkey: Coal Plants are So Last Century

afsin elbistan coal power plant turkey photo

The Afşin-Elbistan power plant in southeast Turkey. Photo via Yeşil Afşin Gazetesi

It's always amusing to see young Turkish guys, too young even to remember the 1980s, strutting down Istanbul's streets in their acid-wash jeans and elaborately spiked, feathered, or structured hairdos. But retro behavior is nothing to laugh at when it comes to energy. While the U.S. has canceled or postponed more than 100 proposed coal-fired power plants, Turkey is paving the way to build more -- despite the damage caused by the ones already existing in the country.

The Energy Market Regulatory Agency (EPDK) has recently approved applications for some of the 46 large coal-fired power plants that will produce more than 100 gigawatts megawatts of electricity in Turkey annually. The rest of the applications are said to be "proceeding on schedule," according to the Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review, though one EPDK official noted that the plants still have to get approval from the Environment Ministry and building permits from the local governments.

A Nasty Business
There are currently 15 coal-fired power plants in Turkey, many of which have created environmental problems in the areas around them. In the Aegean town of Yatağan, near one of Turkey's largest coal plants, residents complain of health problems related to air pollution and have tried for years, thus far unsuccessfully despite court rulings in their favor, to get the plant shut down. Locals also say that acid rain caused by the plant's pollution has greatly damaged the area's ability to produce fruits, olives, and honey.

Similarly, fishermen in the Mediterranean region of Yumurtalık have filed complaints at the European Court of Human Rights over damage to the local fishing industry caused by the nearby power plant. In southeastern Turkey, reports Hürriyet Daily News, the Afşin-Elbistan power plant in the province of Kahramanmaraş

operated without a purification system for 20 years despite complaints by locals, who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The facility’s ash filters were broken for a decade, during which 15 million tons of unfiltered solid, liquid and gaseous waste destroyed the region’s farming industry and its underground waters.

Scientists who examined the soil and plants around the Afşin-Elbistan power plant found higher concentrations of nickel and lead closer to the facility and noted that "the discharge water carried a potential risk for the aquatic life and soil health in the area. The honey quality was also affected negatively by fly ash and emission[s]."

No Solution To Energy Security
Greenpeace Turkey says the planned new facilities -- including seven proposed for the Mediterranean province of Adana and five for the northwestern province of Çanakkale -- could have similar effects on agriculture, health, wildlife, and tourism. Last fall, as part of its "Quit Coal" campaign, the environmental group temporarily blocked a shipment of coal to the Sugozo power plant, which emits 10 million tons of carbon dioxide a year -- three times as much as the entire country of Iceland.

Since most of the power plants planned for Turkey will run on imported coal, notes Greenpeace Turkey Director Uygar Özesmi, they won't even help reduce the country's dependence on foreign energy sources. All the more reason to relegate them to the dustbin of history. Right along with the mullet. Via: "Coal’s firepower to rule on coasts," Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review

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