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HEAL launches toolkit for a “healthy energy” future

Brussels, Hatay/Turkey, Monday 15 February 2016 – The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) has launched a new toolkit on coal power generation and health in Turkey. The aim is to support local health professionals and community groups engaged in initiatives to prevent new coal power plants from being built.

The toolkit entitled “Coal power generation and health in Iskenderun Bay, Turkey” (1) focuses on south-eastern Turkey which is already an industrial hot spot. The pollution from 16 new coal plants in the pipeline would greatly increase the already existing health burden.

Turkey is among the countries with the biggest coal power investment plans in the world. It is planning to double its coal power capacity over the next four years. Local groups, including health professionals, have long been engaged in efforts to prevent new coal plants being built in Iskenderun Bay and other areas. The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) is engaged and its regional chapters in Iskenderun Bay have contributed to the content of the HEAL toolkit.

Professor Dr. Neslihan Önenli Mungan, Chair of the Adana Chamber of Medicine states: “We are concerned about an increased burden of allergic respiratory system diseases, chronic lung diseases, cardio-vascular diseases, different types of cancers, as well as children born with anomalies, and underdeveloped brains, due to the heavy metal pollution and acid rain from these future coal power plants.”

Dr. Ful Ugurhan, Chair of the Mersin Chamber of Medicine adds: “In light of all the current scientific evidence, we as health professionals consider the actions that we take in order to stop coal power generation in Mersin and our region as a medical duty. We urge authorities to act responsible and to build a rational energy future for Turkey, excluding coal and other fossil fuels.”

A meeting to launch the toolkit in Iskenderun, a county of Hatay province, took place on Saturday 13 February 2016, in collaboration with the Hatay, Mersin, Osmaniye and Adana Chamber of Medicines, the Hatay Greater Municipality, the Environment and Consumer Protection Society, and the Iskenderun Environmental Protection Society. It brought together more than fifty participants from the four provinces in Iskenderun Bay region, including one MP of the Hatay province in the national parliament, a mayor from a nearby town under environmental threat of future coal power plants, environmental director of the greater municipality, doctors who are members of Adana, Hatay, Mersin and Osmaniye chambers of medicine, medical students, members of other professional organisations, representatives of local environmental NGOs, representatives of fishermen and farmers in the region, as well as journalists from local and national media.

Any coal plant menaces health and can aggravate already huge disease burdens in deprived areas. The intention now is to make known the toolkit to groups all over the world who may wish to translate and adapt it to support healthy energy initiatives at local level.

“HEAL hopes that the toolkit will strengthen the capacity of local health professionals, citizens and community groups to engage in a healthy energy future. Collaborations with health professionals in the European region will be especially welcome”, says Anne Stauffer, HEAL Deputy Director and one of the toolkit’s authors. “With the double health threat of climate change and air pollution, it is clear that coal power generation has no future. Every country needs to accelerate efforts towards decarbonisation.”

Contents of the toolkit

The toolkit brings together a case study of the health and environmental situation in Iskenderun Bay, with statements from local health professionals.

It provides information on:

  • Key air pollutants and air quality in the major cities
  • What is needed for a complete assessment of air quality in the region
  • How to track down coal projects
  • Gathering evidence on health and environmental impacts.

It also gives examples of successes that the Turkish health and medical community have had, and highlights relevant country and international initiatives.

Communicating on health threats

The toolkit’s second section – From information to action – contains a range of hands-on suggestions. It describes how to communicate the evidence on how coal power generation impacts health to different audiences. It also includes tips on developing specific messaging on coal and health, including sample messages and open letters.

A legal toolbox provides information on Turkish legislation, which can be used to check which regulations are relevant for increasing health protection in relation to coal power plants. Information includes air quality and emissions laws, public access to information, and environmental impact assessment.

Particularly useful is the section on how to put health impacts into an environmental impact assessment. A recent checklist by the Turkish Medical Association is also featured. In the EU and in Turkey, environmental impact assessments are not currently required to specifically consider health effects. Creating an opportunity for health professionals to be involved in this process offers an important opening. (2)

Legal interventions by Iskenderun Bay local groups, including health professionals, have helped in recent decisions rejecting future coal plant projects. Cumulative impact assessment (impacts of several coal power plants rather than just one) has been recognised in these decisions as well as the need to consider existing pollution in the locality.

Professor. Dr. Tacettin İnandı, Chair of the Hatay Chamber of Medicine, Public Health Specialist states: “In order to prevent high social and health costs, it is of vital importance to carry out a cumulative impact assessment of each specific coal power plant project, to consider the possible impacts together with existing and planned industrial and energy investments in our region. Coal projects should also be subject to a health impact assessment.”

Dr. Sadun Bölükbaşı, Chair of the Environmental and Consumer Protection Association said: “We can create a bright and healthy future without exposure to any of these risks if we choose to generate electricity with the right planning from sun and wind power, which are free and indefinite sources of energy.”

Anyone interested in translating parts of the toolkit and adapting it to the local situation should please contact Anne Stauffer, Deputy Director, HEAL, Mobile: +32 473 711092, Email: anne@env-health.org

References

(1) English version of the toolkit: http://env-health.org/IMG/pdf/heal_toolkit_final.pdf

Turkish version of the toolkit: http://env-health.org/IMG/pdf/heal_tr_iskenderunkorfezi_iletisimkiti_sub2016_final.pdf

(2) This legal toolbox follows Annex 3 of HEAL’s the Unpaid Health Bill report, which gives an overview of EU relevant legislation.

(3) Press Release following the launch of the toolkit (in Turkish) http://env-health.org/IMG/pdf/160213_heal_pr_toolkit_turkish.pdf _

Last updated on 29 April 2016

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The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »

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