Ikizdale, Turkey – Pervin Baş said that she moved methodically while cutting tea on the hillside between the villages of Cevizlik and Gürdere. She said that her livelihood is now threatened by the large quarry being built in the valley below.
After marrying a local 30 years ago, Bass, 50, moved to the picturesque province of Rize on the Black Sea coast of Turkey. Since then, he has grown tea, potatoes, corn and green beans on the green hills and raised cattle. Reach the clouds.
Trucks carrying a lot of rocks and dirt kept coming and going. Excavators were digging in the valley to build a quarry to support the construction. Now the birds and streams under her tea garden have been submerged. Port of Rize.
“Before we started work, no one, including the government, had talked to us. At night, they brought large machines and it was just beginning,” Bass told Al Jazeera during a break in the harvest.
Ali Akyildiz, 62, from the village of Gürdere, 54 kilometers (34 miles) from the center of Rize, told Al Jazeera that this valley can support himself and his family.
“If they continue this quarry, they will destroy our lives. This valley is the source of our lives,” Akildiz said, referring to the honey and tea he produces.
The villagers launched a protest and tried to stop construction after it started in April. However, the government imposed huge fines on the persons involved and instituted legal proceedings against them.
‘Emergency expropriation method’
The quarry will support the construction of a new port on the coast of Rize, the hometown of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The construction of the quarry and the port of Rize was awarded to the Cengiz Holding Group, which is closely related to the government and the ruling AK Party.
It is estimated that 16 million tons of stones will be removed to help build the harbor.
Yakup Şekip Okumuşoğlu was one of several lawyers involved in two lawsuits against the project. The complaint claims that construction approval, land acquisition and environmental impact are illegal.
Even though this legal process is active in the Rize Administrative Court, the date of the ruling is not known, and the construction of the road to the quarry continues.
According to Okumuşoğlu, 17 private areas were requisitioned without warning for road construction.
Okumuşoğlu explained that under Turkish law, there is an “emergency expropriation method” which is only applicable to war or emergency situations.
“Is there a war but we haven’t heard of it, or is there an emergency and we haven’t seen it?” Okumushoglu asked. “Unfortunately, in recent years, this kind of emergency expropriation has become commonplace…it has become the norm.”
Al Jazeera raised questions to the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Transport, but received no response.
Cengiz Holding was also contacted, but it informed Al Jazeera that it did not comment to the press.
in a statement In April of this year, the company stated that the decision to start the quarry was based on the evaluation of relevant government departments.
“What we want to emphasize is that our company does not have any right to decide or dispose of the quarries from which raw materials are legally obtained… We want to let you know that our company will assess the opinions of everyone living in the area with sensitivity And seriousness,” it said.
Agriculture and health are threatened
Considering that Baş and her neighbor’s tea fields are organic, she is worried that the dust from the quarry will destroy her crops.
Her concerns stem from her experience working in a nearby tea plantation with a quarry-although it is no longer active-and the problems she faces, including the inability to harvest leaves due to dust accumulation.
“I can’t cut tea, can’t pick tea, and we always inhale dust, which makes our throats irritated,” Bass said. “Because of the dust, we always have to see a doctor and take medications including antibiotics and painkillers to treat inflammation.”
The Turkish Medical Association has requested a medical assessment to thoroughly assess the impact of the quarry on public health, but no relevant parties have been involved.
Since the machine entered the area on April 21, Akildiz has been involved in protests against the construction of the quarry. He also stated that because the road to the valley was blocked, the villagers were unable to collect honey this season.
“We can no longer get into hives,” Akiildiz said. “There is a special kind of honey in this area [bees feeding on] chestnut. You can’t find this chestnut honey anywhere else in the world. The villagers of Gürdere produce 8 to 10 tons of honey every year, but they can no longer produce it. “
Due to the construction of roads in the quarry, 8 households were also disconnected from the municipal water supply.
“The water in the faucet now turns brown with mud. I can’t use the washing machine because there is not enough water, so now I use water dripping from the roof. [after rain],” the person in charge explained.
At the foot of Bath Tea Garden, where she used to herd cattle, her land has been confiscated as part of the road built for the quarry.
“The government has occupied the area. We have our own private land here and they have taken over,” Bass said, adding that her husband has proof of ownership.
“I don’t have money to feed my animals, now they can’t graze.”
Baş also mentioned that she feels uncomfortable working in her field because there are soldiers walking on her land.
Ever since the machine entered Ikizdere without notice to build roads for the quarry, villagers, especially those from Ceviler and Gürdere, have been working hard to prevent damage to their valley.
On the first day, as Akildiz described, at least 50 residents, including elderly women, were sitting in front of the heavy machinery, and more than 100 police and soldiers were brought in to remove them.
In the first few weeks, Akildiz and two others climbed trees to force construction workers to stop logging.
“This forced them to stop working for 8 hours, but then the military police took me away,” Akildiz said, adding that a court accused him of obstructing work.
Since the end of April, 36 villagers have been fined 80,000 lire (9,400 USD) to 100,000 lire (11,700 USD) for resistance.
After a three-week nationwide lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Rize’s office issued a 15-day protest ban on May 17. Al Jazeera’s attempts to obtain comments from the office have repeatedly encountered unanswered calls.
The ban is constantly updated The reason is: “Protests can turn into illegal demonstrations by terrorist organizations and fringe groups.”
But the residents of the valley refused to give up.
“We will continue to resist, so they will continue to stop our protests,” Akildiz said.