Lately, the local public and certain politicians in Türkiye have been actively responding to the most recent agenda, the deforestation of the “Akbelen” forest. To understand the reasons behind the reaction of the public, we need to focus on the context and the plans envisioned for the mentioned area.
Akbelen Forest is one of the natural beauties of Türkiye, located in the district of Muğla. It is considered a “heritage forest”, meaning it is being kept under control and provided security by governmental authorities. Within the 740 hectares of land, we can observe over 200 species of plants, over 100 different species of birds, and approximately 30 different species of mammals which explicitly shows the importance of this forest for the ecosystem, underground, and surface waters. Also, its geographical location holds importance as it nearly binds several forests surrounding it.
Aside from its beauty, it also possesses a rich mine containing lignite set apart for the “Yeniköy” and “Kemerköy” thermal power stations. The said stations are owned by the corporation of two Turkish companies— Limak Holding and IC Holding. There are a total of 3 thermal power stations in Muğla which can cover only 2% of the local electrical demand.
According to a report submitted by the Chamber of Electrical Engineers (EMO) and Mechanical Engineers (TMMOB) in 2022, unused capacities of other stations in the Aegean area could actually cover the local electrical demand even if these three thermal stations did not work at all. On July 24, a deforestation action has been started to obtain coal and lignite to fuel these mentioned stations. About this issue, Dr. Eşref Atabey, a renowned geological engineer MSC (Master of Science), stated that even if we cut the trees to reach the mine and obtained all the coal, it would run short in no time which means that we would be left only with the forest we consciously destroyed. Right after, the Office of the Governor in Muğla announced that 130 thousand young trees will be planted to minimize the damages to the environment. Contradicting this proposition, the President of the Foresters’ Association of Türkiye emphasized his concerns by saying that it would not be effective at all and this action fails to fulfill the promises given only by being a state party of the Paris Agreement.
According to the governor of Muğla, the companies had the authority to operate in the area in cooperation with the Ministry of Forestry and they did. The local public explicitly opposed this cooperation and demonstrated a counter-stand by keeping guard on the area and surrounding the trees. Furthermore, politicians from different parties showed up to the Akbelen forest and listened to the propositions of the public which is how the issue was brought up to the National Assembly. Semra Dinçer, a vice president responsible for environmental issues within Republican People’s Party (CHP), was the person who recently brought up the agenda in the Assembly in order to emphasize the imperative legal consequences of harming the environment and continuing to cut trees even when they have passed the permitted date.
Additionally, it was reported that the chairperson of the executive committee of Limak Holding, Ebru Özdemir, is a dignitary member of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). As the actions of the company and the mission of the prestigious organization contradicted, the public started to further argue about her current position, and later on, WWF-Türkiye announced that she was at risk of losing her seat.
Now, the destruction of the forest has ceased with the latest announcement from the governor and possibly the contribution of the activists. However, the issue still remains on the agenda and the public is still waiting to see what will happen next within the area and the resolution of the legal disputes.
Edited by Simay Cemre Tülübaş & Yağmur Ece Nisanoğlu
TBMM Genel Kurulu “Akbelen” için toplanacak: Köylüler izleyici olarak katılacak. (n.d.). birgun.net. Retrieved August 6, 2023, from https://www.birgun.net/haber/tbmm-genel-kurulu-akbelen-icin-toplanacak-koyluler-izleyici-olarak-katilacak-459100.
Gazete Oksijen, D. D. (2023, July 30). Akbelen ormanı’nda Ağaç Kesimi Sona Erdi. Gazete Oksijen. https://gazeteoksijen.com/turkiye/akbelen-ormaninda-agac-kesimi-sona-erdi-184995