Uzumlu residents take on the proposed cement factory.

Fethiye, Muğla is an area of utmost beauty, renowned for its idyllic coastline.  Inland, scattered on the sides of the mountains are many villages, all famous for their particular best grown produce, or with reputations for handmade crafts.  Just 20 kilometres inland the small town of Yeşil Üzümlü, famous for its grapes and making ‘Dastar’ – a fine, hand made cloth of cotton or silk – nestles, under the ancient city of Cadianda, to one side of a large natural valley and opposite to the small villages of Sahil Koru Köy and İncirköy.

Some time ago a company bought land in the village of Koru Köy.  A stone quarry was opened and, apparently under mining rights, more land was rented from the Forestry, so that now a huge, 200,000sq.metre scar is replacing mature pine trees overlooking this previously beautiful valley, where in springtime the soft pink of the almond blossoms, heralds the change of season.

In recent years, attracted by the peace and relative quiet of the pastoral setting and the cooler, clean air of the higher altitude, Turkish families who work abroad, English and Germans have chosen to settle, bringing an increased wealth to the area.  Of course this also attracted the developers and perhaps too many houses are springing up where none were before, a course that until now, seemed likely to continue until Yeşil Üzümlü really would merit its council and town status.

Back to the stone quarry, this eyesore over paradise is particularly bad for İncirköy as the blasting raises dust in momentous proportions and the prevailing wind generally deposits this all over the village.  But, suddenly, things have got a lot, lot worse, the quarrying company plans to build a cement factory and states that it already has the required permissions.  How can this be?  Of all environmentally polluting industries, cement factories are the worst, their carbon footprint is the highest and Turkey already produces all the cement it needs.

Advertising of the project has been minimal and obscure, public consultation has so far comprised of one small meeting in Koru Köy and, backed up by the ‘convenience’ of a newly metalled access road and promise of employment, was almost certainly economic with the truth to achieve the agreement it apparently obtained.  None of the prevailing laws and regulations can be read to legitimately allow such industrialisation in this rural area.  One could speculate the reason is greed regardless of consequences and, one could ask, is corruption creeping alongside the greed?

All this has served to arouse a robust and active protest group, signatures are being collected in their hundreds and the villagers of all areas are being informed of the realities of cement factories and the filth and devastation they can cause.  One placed here, would not only make Yeşil Üzümlü, İncirköy and even Koru extremely unhealthy places to live but would surely spoil nearby cherry production and even endanger the multiple fish farms just a few kilometres away, not to mention damage to the tourist trade.  Another Yatağan is not needed in Muğla province.  As the protest grows and organises the sentiment to widen the target of “NO CEMENT FACTORY”, to also include restoration of the sorely wounded mountainside grows with it.  How can this be allowed here, they say, when in a nearby village a subsistence farmer goes to prison for building a (removable) wooden shelter for his animals, on a barren treeless mountainside?

The protest group is currently canvassing all the local and relevant authorities they can think of to inform of their concerns and generally they are finding support.  The shrugged shoulder of endemic fatalism illustrated by “Well there is nothing we can do, ‘They’ will do as they like, as always.” is being challenged and actions that can be taken are being communicated with good effect.  The group say, “Enough of this ‘under the carpet’ ‘behind the doors’ activity, let us see decisions being made and keep them accountable”.

Does this company really want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg, because house sales will surely cease in the area; or, is the real plan to industrialise the area even further?

Sue Tekin

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