A Ray of Light

Author: Nilay Vardar, Communications Consultant at Europe Beyond Coal

‘‘Our forebears might not have done anything to stop the coal plant. 
They even sold their land to make way for it. But I don’t want that. 
I don’t want to live this life, to breathe this filth,’’ says Hatice Karabulut, resident of Sivas in the district of Kangal, Eastern Turkey.  

People in the area have been breathing the poison of the local Kangal coal-fired power plant for three decades now. Hatice, who lives close to the plant, says people in the region can’t breathe because of its toxic emissions, and many of her family members suffer from diseases caused by its pollutants. 

‘‘We can’t raise a crop, so how can a tree grow? We can’t breathe, so how can a tree grow? My grandfather recently survived cancer. My grandmother has asthma, my other grandfather has a chronic lung disease,’’ says Hatice.  

Hatice Karabulut | Barbaros Kayan / Europe Beyond Coal

Hasan Ağca worked in a coal-fired power plant when he was young, and says coal plants cause enormous damage to agriculture and farming in the region.

‘‘We used to have 15,000 sheep and goats, and 2,000 cattle. We would work the land and tend to the animals. But once the coal plant arrived, three of our four villages were laid to waste. The crops grown here are shipped all over the country. We are sending poison to the bodies of small children. Everyone must oppose this coal plant.’’

Mahsun Karabulut | Barbaros Kayan / Europe Beyond Coal

Sivas has all the attributes to make it a renewable energy powerhouse. That’s why Mahsun Karabulut wants to study energy systems engineering.

‘‘Our beautiful region is blessed with sun and wind. Sivas is a place where the sun always shines and the wind never stops. The main reason I want to study energy systems engineering is because I want to use renewable energy sources to produce clean energy in a way that doesn’t harm our environment.’’

Hasan Ağaca. Years ago, he was a coal-fired power plant worker, now he is working in the solar field in the same region | Barbaros Kayan / Europe Beyond Coal

In recent years, solar power plants have begun to spring up across the region. Now locals are calling for more solar to be built directly on Sivas’ coal sites. According to the Solar Potential of Coal Sites in Turkey report, converting Sivas’ coal sites to host solar would meet the annual electricity needs of 500,000 households.

Hasan now works at a solar plant and is very happy.

‘’There are no forests in the area so wild animals take shelter at the site. Solar panels produce clean electricity in harmony with nature. Solar panels can easily be installed on the old open pit mines, which sadly turned our farmlands to waste. That would allow us to start closing the coal plant,’’ he says. 

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