Rivers of Life: Turkey’s Black Sea villagers battle to save their homes, livelihoods, and rural environment

The lush forests and small mountain villages of Turkey’s Black Sea coast have become a hotbed of resistance to the national government’s ambitious development and privatization agenda, which includes the building of coal plants, nuclear plants, and nearly 2,000 new dams around the country, as well as many new mining and other industrial operations. Such projects are forcing relocations, damaging the natural environment, and placing at risk the livelihoods of rural residents, whose honey harvests, hazelnut crops, vegetable gardens, subsistence fishing, and jobs on tea plantations all depend upon the Black Sea region’s numerous rivers. Local activists who have rallied against such threats often end up facing new ones – intimidation, vilification, lawsuits, even violence – from powerful corporate interests and a government moving to further restrict the right to protest. This reporting project aims to bring attention to some of the people and places at risk in Turkey and investigate whether environmental activists can still make their voices heard despite growing political pressure.

Jennifer Hattam is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul, Turkey, and focusing on environmental and social issues. Her articles have been published by The Atlantic’s CityLab, BBC Wildlife, California, The Christian Science Monitor, GOOD, IPS, More, The National, Salon, Sierra, TreeHugger, Wired, and Women’s eNews, among other print and online media outlets.