In the age of the climate crisis, can a huge forest be sacrificed to extract lignite for a coal power plant?
In Western Turkey, the people of Muğla/Milas Ikizkoy are struggling to prevent logging in the Akbelen Forest which has 600 acres of red pine. The Yenikoy Energy Company has been responsible for the deforestation and has been carrying out its activities with the permission of Turkey’s General Directorate of Forestry.
There are 3 old coal power plants in Muğla— Yatagan, Yenikoy and Kemerkoy Coal Power Plants which have been running for approximately 40 years. The lignite mine, located by the Ikızkoy village and Akbelen Forest, supplies coal to the Yenikoy-Kemerkoy Coal Power Plants. In 2018, the mine expanded and engulfed residents’ villages, houses, gardens, and memories. Ikızkoy villagers were settled into a new location but are still within the mine’s licensed area.
This year, once again, the company wants to expand the coal mine to extract lignite and supply coal to the Yenikoy-Kemerkoy Coal Power Plants. The Akbelen Forest is the last natural area between their new settlements and the mine.
In December 2020, environmental defenders in Ikızkoy requested the court to mandate an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for Yeniköy Energy’s coal mine expansion move.
In April 2021, women, kids, and men of the Ikızkoy village resisted and stopped those who came to cut down the forest. During the same period, there was an incomprehensible forest fire that was extinguished after villagers quickly responded. They constantly keep an eye on the area to make sure the forest is safe from loggers or another possible strange forest fire.
Recently, the Ikızkoy villagers filed a lawsuit against the General Directorate of Forestry calling for the cancellation of the mining and slaughtering permit.
The residents describe their struggle as “İkizoy’s resistance for a humane life”.
The following is from a press release by the Ikızkoy defenders released on April 26th, 2021:
“The Akbelen Forest is the breeding, sheltering, and feeding area of dozens of animals, many of which are included in the list of species that must be strictly protected within the scope of the Bern Convention to which Turkey is a party.
The forest is also the last natural structure between the local people and the open lignite mines operated to supply coal to the Yenikoy-Kemerkoy Coal Power Plants. It allows us to breathe by preventing the mine’s deadly dust from reaching the village.
The forest is our home as much as the creatures living in it. In addition, cutting down the forests affects not only the people and other creatures living around it but all of humanity. Studies show that deforestation is among the top causes that increase the severity of global climate change.
We respectfully announce to the public and the authorities that we will use all of our legal rights to prevent the deforestation of the Akbelen Forest in accordance with our duty to protect the environment given to citizens by the Constitution.”
In the age of the climate crisis, we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and save every single tree on the earth— it does not make any sense to sacrifice an old forest for lignite, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels. With this illustration, I wanted to raise awareness about what has been going on there and show my solidarity with the local people of Ikızkoy. Women have been at the forefront of their powerful resistance, and I wanted to illustrate and showcase a strong local woman from Ikızkoy to represent the resistance.
Yasemin is a seasoned graphic designer with more than 20 years of international experience. She is a climate activist who has been creating climate crisis visuals and sharing them on social media to support the national and global climate movement.