Flashback 2023: Environmental devastation continues to unfold

This report was published by Medya News on 31 December, 2023

Environmental degradation continues to plague Turkey in 2023, as forests are sacrificed for mining ventures, water resources are exploited, and major destruction is wrought in Kurdish regions.

In 2023, the Turkish government is under intense scrutiny for continuing to prioritise capital gains at the expense of natural resources. Throughout its 21 years in power, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has removed all legal restrictions on environmental destruction in pursuit of capital interests. The plundering of Turkey’s geography ranges from the drying up of water basins to the invasion of agricultural land, with Kurdish regions being exploited and devastated.

Forests have been either burned or cut down to make way for mining, energy and tourism zones. Throughout the year, Turkey has witnessed the rapid expansion of environmental plunder, with mining operations claiming thousands of hectares of natural land in Kurdish areas.

While forests are being set on fire under military supervision, forest guards are carrying out mass deforestation, leading to the destruction of vital ecosystems.

Water sources are diverted and trapped behind dams, impoverishing people and destroying natural habitats.

Mines, hydroelectric and thermal power plants, solar and wind farms, and mega-projects have proliferated over the years, surpassing the environmental destruction of previous years.

Olive groves, agricultural and forest areas in the Aegean, Mediterranean and other regions have been subjected to mass destruction, while in the Kurdish-majority south-eastern regions, special warfare strategies have accompanied continuous military deforestation. In Şırnak (Şinex) and Hakkari (Colemerg), thousands of oak trees have been felled and sold under the pretext of ‘security measures’.

Mountains, meadows and forests stretching 110 km from Şirnak to Colemêrg have been marked for zinc, lead and rare earth element mining. Under the guise of ‘national’ energy, oil drilling was initiated in Cudi and Gabar, and partnerships were established with Canadian companies.

By designating 60 per cent of Turkey’s geography as mining areas, the government has handed over millions of hectares of natural land to capital for mining purposes. Recently, 176,000 hectares of natural land were put up for auction, with 105,000 hectares in the Kurdish provinces. As metallic minerals such as gold, silver, zinc, copper and others are exploited, forests, meadows, agricultural land and water bodies are devastated.

While the water in Van (Wan) Lake is decreasing every year, it continues to be polluted. This year, it was revealed that the city’s untreated sewage was being dumped into the lake, and the entire coastline began to be plundered. Dams built on the rivers that feed the lake have almost completely stopped the flow of water into the lake.

The construction of nuclear power plants has started in Mersin and hundreds of thousands of trees have been cut down in Sinop to prepare the ground for the construction. The statement of the Minister of Energy that “Turkey will be strong with coal and nuclear power” was a clear indication that despite the lack of energy needs in Turkey, new plundering will continue. The incineration of all kinds of hazardous and non-hazardous waste for energy production was supported in every province.

In the process, the agricultural lands were poisoned, the cities became unbreathable, the quality agricultural lands were sacrificed for energy production and the waters were poisoned.