Locals, environmentalists and NGOs led by the Aliağa Platform for Labour and Democracy rallied on Thursday in Izmir, protesting against the agreement allowing the dismantling of a huge aircraft carrier in the western Turkish province.
The massive Brazilian aircraft carrier Nae São Paulo is alleged to carry ecologically harmful materials, including asbestos and heavy metals.
Protesters called on the Turkish Environment Ministry to withdraw its authorisation of the project that threatens natural resources and human health throughout the region, Mezopotamya Agency reported.
“The government and multinational corporations treat all of Turkey as a dumping ground,” Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Deputy Co-chair for Ecology Naci Sönmez said at Thursday’s rally, referring to the Aliağa Shipyard as one of the worst impacted sites in the country from industrial pollution.
The project also poses a public health risk, Behiye Mungan from the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) said. “Asbestos is not the only issue. This vessel has also seen nuclear trials.”
The TTB has already appealed to international authorities to prevent the vessel from entering Turkish waters, she said.
“Those who wish to bring this ship here have no problem putting our lives, the lives of workers and citizens, at risk,” Deniz Gültekin from the Aliağa Platform for Labour and Democracy said. “The Nae São Paulo and all other toxic vessels should be dismantled where they were built.”
Gültekin called for further inspections on the Aliağa site and improvements on working conditions and safety.
“We object to this vessel coming to our country, when no other country has accepted the dismantling,” Gültekin added. “Turkey is not a junkyard for Europe, nor is Aliağa a junkyard for Turkey.”
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that is highly toxic to humans and animals, causing lung cancer and other respiratory problems. Before its toxic properties were discovered, it was used widely in insulation.
While the toxic effects often occur after prolonged exposure, working with asbestos without proper protective equipment or living near work sites can be enough to cause asbestosis.
There could be up to 900 tons of asbestos on the Nae São Paulo, Voice of America Turkish reported. Turkey’s Environment Minister Murat Kurum has rejected the claims, saying the actual amount was less than 10 tons.
“Discarded materials that include asbestos in our country are labelled appropriately and wrapped in a way that cuts off their contact with air. Refuse packaged in this manner is placed in temporary holds, transported with licensed vehicles, and disposed of in authorised facilities under necessary precautions,” Kurum said in July, slamming social media reports to the contrary.