Jul 30 2018

Residents complain of effects geothermic power plants in western Turkey

Turkey’s dependence on imported electricity fell by 60 percent in 2017 due to increased use of renewable and domestic energy production, but people living near Turkey’s 38 geothermic power plants, mostly in the west of the country, complain about the damage to the environment and their health.

A report by a commission established by the municipality of Efeler in the western province of Aydın two years ago found that 12 percent of the liquid used by the power plant in the Germencik district to produce electricity via a cooling system escaped into the environment. The investigation also showed that all of the liquid used in the production could not be re-injected. That means the gases such as nitrogen, ammonia, methane, and sulphide was emitted into the atmosphere. Those gases damage the environment and also decrease the efficiency of the power plant.

Those living near the plants complain the air stinks of rotten eggs. Elsewhere in the world, geothermic power plants are not built in residential areas.

Mehmet Vergili, the head of Aydın Environment and Culture Platform, said power plants in the region are very close to farms and houses.

“The geothermic power plants here are both close to residential areas and are built on class one agricultural land. Aydın used to be a region of pears, olives, and walnuts, but now our trees die,” he said.

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In order to be environmentally friendly, all those liquids that include harmful chemicals and heavy minerals extracted from underground have to be re-injected. Harmful gases have to be prevented from entering the atmosphere. But Vergili said those rules are violated leading to a decrease in the productivity of the agricultural land.

Seventeen geothermic power plants have been built on the Aydın plain since 2004.

“We thought that they would provide resources to the region, that the electricity would be used for heating and in industrial plants. Instead, our agriculture died in order to produce one percent of Turkey’s overall electricity demand. If that is the case, then sell us electricity and water cheaply. If those companies make money out of our region, then we should also receive the benefits,” he said.

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Residents fear more geothermic power plants are in the pipeline.

“The existing geothermic power plants are sufficient. Those trees do not grow easily. Our olive trees that yielded fruit every year and have lived through civilisations have died out. Our fish in the Menderes River have died, our creeks have been damaged. The pear trees in Güzel village in Nazilli and in Pamukören have been destroyed,” Vergili said.

After examining pear samples around the geothermic power plant near Germencik, Dr. Sunay Dağ from the Erbeyli Pear Research Institute found pears growing close to the plant contained heavy metals and the quality of the fruit increased further away from the plant.

“We are losing both the environment and our health. Our houses stink like rotten eggs,” said Ayşe Çetin, a resident of Yılmaz village in Aydın province. “The number of cancer patients has increased. We will not be able to leave our grandchildren a green environment. What will we do without water, sun, and air? The authorities must hear us. How can you build a geothermic power plan so close to the city?” Çetin asked.

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The percentage of cancer cases in Turkey was 18 percent between 2010 and 2013, but this percentage is 42 percent in Aydın province. While the percentage of respiratory diseases in Turkey is 46 percent, it is 57 percent in Aydın.

“We will not leave our land and go away, we will fight till the end,” Vergili said.