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WWF removes pro-gov’t holding chair from board over demolition of trees in Akbelen Forest

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The Turkey branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has announced the removal of Ebru Özdemir, the chairperson of Limak Holding’s board of directors, from her position as a member of the WWF board after the recent felling of trees in Akbelen Forest for a mine jointly operated by the holding, local media reported on Monday.

YK (YENİKÖY KEMERKÖY) Energy, Limak Holding and IC Holding’s joint venture has taken action to include a part of Akbelen Forest in the village of İkizköy into the mining area that supplies lignite to thermal power plants.

YK Energy had obtained the necessary permits from the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry to operate a lignite mine in Akbelen Forest, but they faced resistance from locals, who have been struggling both physically and legally to protect Akbelen since 2019.

The villagers and activists who have been defending the forest faced a new logging attempt last week that has continued despite protests supported by opposition politicians.

In a written statement WWF’s Turkey branch officially announced the removal of Özdemir from her position as a board member due to the inconsistency of her professional activities with the organization’s principles and for behaving in contravention of its bylaws.

WWF noted that there were no financial relationships between Özdemir or Limak Holding and it during her tenure as a former board member.

The organization further stated that they have been openly opposing the mining activities in Akbelen Forest and providing support to the resistance since 2021.

“In this context, we will continue to make official calls for the cessation of the mining operations and express our demands to the authorities to put an immediate end to the mining activities,” they added.

Limak Holding is among the five pro-government holdings in Turkey that have been awarded nearly all the large tenders during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s time in office. Also including Cengiz Holding, MNG Holding, Kolin Construction and Kalyon Construction, the group is referred to by the opposition politicians as the “gang of five.”

According to data in the Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change Ministry’s Environmental Impact Assessment (ÇED), Limak Holding has received approval for 52 projects in 13 provinces since 2014, in addition to the large number of contracts awarded by the public sector.

Over the years, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s environmentally irresponsible policies, particularly regarding the mining industry, have been subject to widespread criticism. Environmentalists and local communities have expressed concern that the AKP’s policies prioritize economic interests and favor pro-government mining companies, often at the expense of important natural habitats.

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