Çeşme is too precious to be sacrificed to greedy ‘green’ profit

Çeşme is too precious to be sacrificed to greedy ‘green’ profit

09:01 15 September in ARTICLES, In English, PUBLICATIONS


Hürriyet Daily News |  15 September, 2014 | Mehmet ÖĞÜTÇÜ |

A swift action is needed because time is of the essence in reversing the continued construction of the wind power plants in Çeşme against all objections grounded on legal, moral, health and environmental reasons.

Otherwise, there will likely be serious consequences for the investors, local population and the natural treasures, which are “crown jewel.” International outcry will also become more vocal and disturbing as Nongovernmental organizations (NGO) have been outreaching their peers in Europe and the United States.

Let’s not make a mistake: It is not an opposition against the wind-turbines. They are indeed a fact of life, whether we like their silhouette or not, they are expected to help us create a greener and cleaner energy economy. Every bit of energy is welcome in a massively energy deficient country. In this vein, Turkey’s goal is to increase its wind energy output to 20,000 MW (from less than 3,500 MW today) by 2023 – right on time for the centenary of the Republic of Turkey. That would represent 30 percent of the country’s energy mix – there is a long way to go to meet the ambitious target.

There is an opposition to where the new wind farms will be constructed – very close to Çeşme’s historic, natural sites and human settlements. Although wind energy is considered to be green energy, let’s never lose the sight of the fact that energy is exclusively produced for human needs and therefore should be engineered and located in a way that is not detrimental to humans.

The construction of wind turbines in residential areas are known to have caused health problems for people living in the area, as well as spoil the aesthetics and depreciate the value of the land, as proven through scientific studies. The noise pollution from commercial wind turbines is sometimes similar to a small jet engine. This is fine if you live far away, where you will hardly notice the noise, but what if you live within a few hundred meters of a turbine?

Hence, utmost care should be paid to the preservation of natural wonders, historical sites and holiday resorts where the overall national interests outweigh the relative energy benefit from the generation of a few megawatts of electricity. This is where the “energy democracy” kicks in.

Unfortunately, it is often the developer (not the Municipality) who gets to commission the entire expert environmental, architectural, acoustic and ecological surveys assessing the proposed turbines’ impact. Is it any surprise that these surveys generally tend to be in favor of the person who has paid for them?

Lobbying is done by developers (who are keen on quickly capitalizing on their time-bound license, installing equipment already arrived and dispensing their hard-found investment funds) with political groups, regulatory bodies, and the judiciary. That is natural from their vintage point, but the overall natural good for the country, its people and nature should be above anything else. There is one Çeşme, which is a most beautiful gem we need to preserve and cultivate.

Public attitudes and responses to wind power cannot be dismissed as ignorant or misinformed. The indigenous groups, not seriously consulted, are often left with no option but to engage in relentless legal and political battles to spare their cherished patch of the countryside or holiday resort from ruin. Greater trust must be placed in members of the public and in their knowledge.

Just because there is a better potential to harness wind power in Çeşme, does not give investors and contractors the right to build turbines in people’s gardens and on hills surrounding the town.

A lack of public consultation and a twisted “there is nothing you can do” logic in these projects flies in the face of an energy democracy. Even if these projects may soon be halted, the emotional stress, material and loss of spirit for both the investors and more importantly the people living through this is unacceptable.

Wind turbines financed with private equity or through multilateral financial institutions will unnecessarily strain investors should the law be upheld and projects stopped. Therefore, there should be an immediate halt on the construction of all wind farms until all aspects are reconsidered and convergence of various interests achieved.

Something has gone badly awry thus far with both our wind energy policy and our planning and building regulations. It is not only in Çeşme. Many world class regions are under threat along the northern coast of the Aegean, the Marmara region, the western Black Sea coast, and the southern part of Mersin-Hatay Province.

The clock is ticking and we hope that Ankara will be listening and taking an immediate remedial action before it is too late for the sake of people, nature, historic sites, energy and investors.