Akbelen Forest Protests
AKBELEN FOREST PROTESTS – Coal Resistance in Turkey
For 40 years the area of Muğla has been living under the grip of the Turkish coal industry and the three gigantic power plants situated there. Over the years, 8 villages have been completely cleared to provide the fuel needed to keep the plants running.
This large-scale deforestation is happening at the same time as wildfires rampage through the Mediterranean, fuelled further by man-made climate change. The irony that permission has been granted to destroy this important forest to allow for the expansion of a coal mine has not been lost on the locals.
An ongoing lawsuit filed by residents has opposed the decision for YK Energy to expand the open pit mine. But so far it has not stopped the long arm of the energy company whose activities are fully backed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The plants generate 60% of the energy used in the South Aegean, which according to Erdoğan, justifies this rampant environmental destruction.
Our platform on Akbelen Forest provides essential background information, news portals, details of the plight of local activists, video news, key social media accounts to follow, and all the latest developments.
Who are YK Energy?
The coal company Yeniköy Kemerköy Energy are a subsidiary of Limak Holding and are one of the largest companies in Turkey. In 2019, the local people of İkizköy, one of the villages in the region, began their resistance against the company's expansion policy.
By July 2021, they were forced to ramp up their resistance and organised a “Watch Camp for Akbelen Forest” with the goal of preventing the large-scale felling of trees. With relative success, they managed to push back four logging attempts by the company.
What is the Importance of Akbelen Forest?
Akbelen Forest is significant because it acts as buffer stopping the company's coal expansion, it is also a vast carbon sink soaking up CO₂ from the atmosphere. However, in July 2023, YK Energy were given the green light to start logging in this forest for the first time. They started their work under the protection of military forces.
Tactics used by the military towards the coal mine resistance been disproportionate and violent. Activists and villagers’ non-violent actions has been met with tear gas, water cannons, and riot shields, hospitalising many of the locals.
For perspective, since mining operations began, an area of 55,000 acres has been turned into a mining site, approximately 30,000 acres of which was previously untouched forest land.
The fossil fuel industry, big coal, mining, and deforestation are major causes of the climate crisis, and have become important topics of political agenda in Turkey. The Milas region of Muğla was once a symbol of fertile lands and olive groves, but now the region continues to be poisoned by power plants, tree felling, contamination, and waste.
What is the Impact of the Global Climate Crisis?
Wildfires, flooding, heatwaves, and extreme weather events are increasing in intensity and frequency all over the world. This instability affects the daily life of everyone causing hunger, disease, poverty, conflict, and the large-scale displacement of climate refugees.
Large companies and governments play a huge role in the destruction of our natural world, biodiversity loss, pollution, and water scarcity. Through greenwashing, weak policies, and profit centred business models, selfish world leaders, stockholders, and CEOs continue to enjoy impunity, line their pockets, and ignore the implications for future generations.
Citizens must continue to put pressure on governments to act now and recognise the long-lasting damage that industries such as big coal have on our planet. Turkey, Europe, and the rest of the world need to implement strict policies now to reduce coal dependence and all forms of deforestation.
Like many countries, Turkey is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Devastating forest fires occur every summer, they are susceptible to flooding, heatwaves, droughts, landslides, earthquakes, and windstorms. Rather than divesting from fossil fuels and funding the renewable energy sector, the Turkish government is busy showing off its military power against innocent activists and villagers who are simply trying to protect nature and their villages.
Authors: Huseyin & Merve 10.08.23 (Edited by Rachael Mellor 16.08.23)
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