The waste area consists of materials containing asbestos buried in Kocaeli’s Dilovası district, where there has been serious environmental pollution since the 1980s, which has led to deaths in the region.
Dilovası has been shown as a symbol of Turkey’s uncontrolled industrialisation.
A“health disaster zone”, Dilovası was defined by a Turkish parliamentary commission in 2007 after the commission reported on the environmental effects of industrialisation in the area. But the Turkish government has encouraged the industrialisation in the region by establishing new industrial zones and providing incentives to businesses in the area rather than acting for public’s health.
Said Ağdacı, former director of Environmental Engineers in Kocaeli, criticised the lack of government action saying, “Authorities did not take any legal steps necessary to clean the area for years.”
He added that company officials denied the accusations, but ”it was confirmed by the factory employees and the drivers who carried the waste to be buried at the facility and dirty glass was taken there from the factory in the Izocam area at various times from the 1980s to the 2000s,” Ağdacı said.
He noted that the municipality and district governorship of the period covered up the waste with soil and plantings.
Prof. Dr. Onur Hamzaoğlu, now Peoples Democratic Congress (HDK) co-chair, drew public attention following his research throughout the 2000s on the severe health and environmental implications of industrial pollution in Dilovası.
Prof. Hamzaoglu and his colleagues found that the risk of death due to cancer for those permanently living in the Dilovası area was greater than those others who were just staying there for shorter periods. Another study he conducted in the Dilovası and Kandıra districts found heavy metals in the milk of breast feeding mothers were over the accepted limits set by the World Health Organisation.
Whilst no measures were taken for improvement, enterprises in the region continued to increase their capacity in spite of these scientific findings, Hamzaoğlu was abruptly dismissed from his position in Kocaeli University on 1 September 2016 by an emergency decree.
He was then arrested on 17 February 2018 on “propaganda” and “incitement” charges over a press release on a Turkish military operation in Afrin, northern Syria and was released after spending five months in prison.