The number of coal mines and coal screening facilities in Toptepe (Avgamasya) village, located in Turkey’s eastern city of Şırnak (Şirnex), have been contaminating the local environment. Villagers have complained that their health and livelihoods are at risk.
The number of coal screening facilities in the village is 26, but 14 of these are run “off the record” (i.e., unofficially) with no license, according to Jinha. The agricultural activities they are dependent upon have been affected by the poisoning of the environment that has taken place due to the coal mining activity.
Since farming has been constrained due to the dense dust and smoke coming out of the mines, that has poisoned the air and the soils in the area, villagers have been demanding an end to the mining activity in the village.
Makbule Acu, a villager, complains that the coal mining activities have made conditions uninhabitable for local residents. “We want these mines to be removed from here. They do not leave any life to sustain ourselves here,” she said.
“Both over there, both next to our home, the mines are everywhere. Coal is all over the village.”
Gurbet Sevim has been living in the village for 20 years. Explaining the levels of dust they have to contend with, she provides the following example: She needs to wash her balcony three times a day. “Even after I wash the balcony all day, the feet of my children become all dark due to the coal dust,” she said.
“We breathe all that black dust. We can hardly live amidst this dust. Due to the dust coming out of the mines, we are unable to grow plants or any agriproducts.”
Applying to authorities, signing petitions, the villagers have tried to fight back using all legal means, but their attempts have achieved no results. “We built this house here three to four years ago. There had already been coal mines here then. There are mines back there as well. After we moved to this home, we were exposed to dust and smog,” Sevim said.
“We have submitted petitions a few times, but no-one has acted on them. Exposing the residents here to such dust and coal is a great injustice. Our only demand is to get rid of this dust. We do not ask for anything else.”