Governor of Turkey’s central Anatolian province of Isparta was ‘temporarily’ dismissed after four days of power outage across the province, following heavy snowfall that started on 3 February and lasted for 11 consecutive hours. The reason for the dismissal was announced by authorities that the governor tested positive for Covid-19.
The power outage was the result of blizzards which broke off conductive wires, knocked down power lines and wreaked havoc on substations. Serious problems with lighting and heating arose in the city, in provincial towns and villages. One individual reportedly froze to death in the city with a population of around 200 thousand.
Although the Interior Ministry stated that the governor’s dismissal was routine practice, it is suspected he was removed from his post as the city surrendered to snow for days.
During the disaster, the mayor of Isparta, affiliated with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), rejected offers of help from the neighbouring municipalities of Burdur and Antalya, both run by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Privatisation and therefore electricity distribution companies are also considered responsible for the long-lasting power cuts. Companies systematically avoid nfrastructural maintenance responsibilities, while issuing rising energy bills to citizens. Substations, wires and utility polls were already very old and worn out before they were hit by snow and blizzard.
The Turkish minister of energy and natural resource visited Isparta on the fourth day of the power cuts as life in the city was returning to normal.
But Turkey seems to be facing a comprehensive energy crisis far beyond the Isparta fiasco. On January 20, Iran announced a ten-day interruption in natural gas deliveries to Turkey due to a technical malfunction.
The government had to restrict the industrial use of natural gas for three days, which brought industrial production to a halt across the country, reportedly costing around 1 billion dollars. That crisis was widely seen as a result of inadequate gas storage.
It is observed that Turkey, facing an ever-increasing energy demand, needs to revise its privatisation policies and deal with the issues of inefficient energy use and under-utilisation of renewable resources in order to cope with the deepening energy crisis.
The recent hike in the electricity and gas bills and fuel prices caused popular outrage and protests on the streets in several cities.
The pro-government media portrayed the protests in a number of Kurdish-majority districts, including Doğubeyazıt (Bazîd) and Mardin, as provocations by the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
However, the protests in the form of mass burning of utility bills have gone far beyond the Kurdish provinces and have spread all over the country.
The head of the Chamber of Chemical Engineers, Dr. Ali Uğurlu, spoke to bianet saying that high energy bills are also a direct result of privatisation policies:
“Even though the Electricity Production Inc. provides very cheap electricity to distribution companies, problems such as these companies selling the electricity to the people four or five times higher have overwhelmed the industrialists, shopkeepers and the people.”