Health groups call on the leaders of the Western Balkan countries to harmonize national air quality standards with the World Health Organization Global air quality guidelines. Health experts should be actively involved in these decision-making processes to ensure the timely integration of public health measures into environmental policies. Compliance with WHO recommendations brings multiple benefits – reduced incidence of chronic diseases and premature deaths, reduced overall health costs and, most importantly, better health and higher productivity of people.
Health groups are concerned about the acceleration of permissions for new coal power plants fuelled with lignite and importated coal, with the approval of two impact assessment (EIA) reports and the launch of others in the past weeks. The health of millions of people living in the cities of Canakkale, Adana and Eskisehir is at risk through new plants set to be built in the vicinity.
At a meeting with local authorities in Eskisehir city, HEAL, the Turkish Association of Public Health Specialists (HASUDER), TEMA Foudation, the Turkish Right to Clean Air Platform, and the Eskisehir Chamber of Medicines called for an investigation into the health impacts.
The planned Alpu coal power plant in Eskisehir threatens public health and at least 1 million people are expected to be affected. This was the main message HEAL – together with the Turkish Association of Public Health Specialists, HASUDER – brought to a meeting with the Eskisehir Directorate of Public Health. Further elaborating on the major public health threats air pollution from coal power plants poses, HEAL’s representative on energy and health in Turkey, Funda Gacal said:
“Air pollution affects everyone and can harm human health in irreversible ways. Pollution from coal power plants cause roughly 3,000 premature deaths every year in Turkey alone.”
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Cigdem Caglayan from HASUDER added: “The Alpu Coal Power Plant and its effects on air pollution and public health should be re-evaluated and the tender process of the plant should be cancelled. The Alpu Coal Power Plant is designed to burn 7,8 billion tonnes of coal, which is more than 156 times than the amount used in homes for heating purposes. In addition, each 10μg/m3 increase of air pollutant emissions means 15-27% increase in the premature death rates due to lung cancer”.
From left to rigth: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Cigdem Caglayan from HASUDER, Dr. Mehmet Akif Aladağ from Eskisehir Chamber of Medicines, Funda Gacal from HEAL, Melih Karasözen from TEMA Foundation
HEAL’s Funda Gacal was also a guest of Es TV, a local television channel, where she spoke about the health effects of coal power plants and energy policies in Turkey. Gacal underlined the health costs associated with air pollution from fossil fuels, and pointed towards the 1.9 billion US dollars that the Turkish government invests each year to uphold the country’s fossil fuel industry .