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Turkey: Using health evidence in coal lawsuit

Citizens of Bursa, the fourth biggest city in Turkey, are concerned about their health as a new coal-fired power plant is planned in order to supply power to the factories in the area. Recent measurements in the city show that the air quality is critical or unhealthy.

Bursa, with a population of 2.8 million people is an important industrial centre, with the Demirtas Organised Industrial Zone (DOSAB) hosting several automotive, machinery and metal, furniture and textile factories. In order to supply power to these factories, the DOSAB management are planning to install a new coal-fired power plant with a capacity of 49.9 MW and where 63.5 tonnes of coal will be burned in one hour (i.e. 500,000 tonnes/year).

The citizens of Bursa are very concerned that a new plant will bring an additional burden due to an increase in pollution levels. Settlements as close as 750 m to the planned facility, mean people will be even more exposed to air pollution than normal, and the factories are known for their high air emissions.

A Platform against the DOSAB Thermal Power Plan has been created, with more than 100 organisations including environmental NGOs, professional organisations such as the chamber of engineers and the chamber of medicine, as well as political parties, as members.

Dr. Kayihan Pala, a Professor of public health at the city’s established university and a member of the Bursa Chamber of Medicine, warns that “these pollutants [from the coal plant] will cause acid rains; and will contribute to global warming and climate change. Our food will be contaminated, since the water used in agriculture in the Bursa Plain will be polluted by the power plant; and agricultural productivity will decrease, too. The power plant is planned to be built at the city centre. Since the prevailing wind direction is towards the city centre, the whole city will be adversely affected by the pollutants carried via air.”

Despite all objections of civil society, scientists and public health specialists to the new plant, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report, a necessary step in building the plant, was approved by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation.

Since then, the Platform has taken the EIA to court, with public health impacts of coal-fired power plants among the key arguments of the court case. HEAL’s “Unpaid Health Bill” in Turkey was submitted as evidence of how public health will be adversely affected by the project. HEAL estimates the economic costs of the health impacts from coal combustion in Turkey at 2.9 billion up to 3.6 billion EUR per year.

DOSAB is not a particular case. Turkey is planning more than 80 new coal power plants with a total installed capacity of 65 GW. This makes it the country with the largest coal investments in the European region, and the third biggest globally, after China and India. Yet, there is hope as civil society, scientists and in particular the health community voice their concerns against coal power generation.

Originally posted on 17 September 2015

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