Is it too late to stop Turkey’s coal rush?

The Guardian reports: The smell is sharp and smoky, with a metallic tinge, and very, very strong. “That,” says Yıldırım Biçici, “is the smell of coal”.

The tea-shop owner’s home is just a couple of hundred metres from a huge, ageing coal-fired power plant in central Turkey, whose red-and-white chimneys spew dirty fumes. Biçici has lived amid the smoke for decades but now finds himself on the frontline of the nation’s new coal rush: the Afşin-Elbistan station is planning to expand into the biggest coal-fired power plant in the world.

Sitting on a little wooden stool in the shabby square of Goğulhan village, Biçici says: “There are warnings on cigarette packets saying don’t smoke, but here we have no choice.” Waving his hand through the pungent air, he says: “We have to smoke.”

Biçici’s mother died of lung cancer – “we figured it was the air pollution” – and his four-year-old daughter Gülbeyaz has chronic bronchitis. “It is so sad, we don’t let her go out even if the weather is nice,” he says.

Turkey has very big plans for coal, with more than 80 new plants in the pipeline, equivalent in capacity to the UK’s entire power sector. The scale of the coal rush is greater than any country on Earth, after China and India. It is pushing forward in a year when the world’s nations must seal a deal to combat climate change at a crunch UN summit in Paris in December and when scientists have warned that 80% of known coal reserves must stay in the ground. [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email