After a long campaign against geothermal power plant projects and exploration drilling, locals and environmentalists were relieved to hear that a court scrapped several licenses in the Seferihisar area near Izmir.
The Izmir Water and Sewerage Administration (İZSU) and local organizations won the case before the Izmir 1st Administrative Court after filing to protect the water reservoirs at the Ürkmez and Tahtalı dams. The panel annulled three operational permits and the licenses for geothermal exploration activities at locations between Seferihisar and Menderes, southwest of the third-largest city in Turkey.
Drilling in the search for mineral and geothermal reserves and their exploitation can cause spillages of underground water rich in harmful heavy metals and other substances like boron, mercury, arsenic, lead and antimony. Particularly, the plaintiffs have said the sites are in the immediate protection area for the water sources and pointed to the risk of contamination.
The geothermal projects and exploration are for heating and power plants
The permits were issued by the provincial authority in Izmir, for geothermal heating among other uses. The court, which already suspended the projects in June, said that the said activities are not in the public interest and that public health and drinking water supply are priorities.
Mayor of Izmir Mustafa Tunç Soyer praised the ruling, saying the projects were an attempt to poison drinking water.
Local villagers are also protecting the endemic olive forests in the area and their orchards and agriculture land
The people from the village of Orhanlı have been among the loudest against the geothermal projects. Over two years ago they launched a campaign to protect the ancient olive forests in the area as well as their agricultural land and orchards. At the time, they complained that people were moving away because of the pollution from a nearby geothermal power plant.
The villagers have also accused investors of breaching environmental and other regulations. They have organized protests and blocked roads. The geothermal energy project was supposed to be combined with wind and solar power facilities.