450 people die annually in Iğdır as a result of air pollution

HDP deputy Habib Eksik calls for immediate action against air pollution as the number of cancer cases has increased by one hundred percent in the past ten years due to air pollution in the province of Iğdır.

According to the World Air Pollution Report for 2021, which analyzes the air pollution levels of 117 countries and 6475 cities worldwide, Northern Kurdistan and Turkey ranked 46th. The city of Iğdır in northern Kurdistan is considered to be the place with the most severe air pollution on Turkish territory and the whole European continent.

Iğdır is located at an altitude of about 800 meters and has its own microclimate in contrast to the continental climate of the surrounding area. This is mainly due to its location in a depression and Mount Ararat, where warm air currents circulate and are reflected back to Iğdır. The surroundings of the city are parched. There is no plant cover that could absorb pollutants. The sealing of open spaces with concrete increases man-made environmental degradation. Pollution results primarily from the poverty of the region. People are forced to use low-grade lignite for heating, and many households do not have access to natural gas. There is a lack of infrastructure or sensibly planned urban development. At the same time, permanent construction work under the city's trustee administration leads to further deterioration of the situation. Due to these many factors, Iğdır leads the ranking of cities with the highest air pollution on Turkish territory both in summer and winter.

Hundred percent increase in cancer rate

Habib Eksik, a doctor and HDP deputy in the Turkish National Assembly, is from Iğdır. He stated cancer cases in the region have increased by one hundred percent in the past ten years. He sees environmental pollution as the cause of the diseases and speaks of 450 deaths annually in this context.

"The number of newborns with disabilities is increasing, child deaths are occurring, and the lives of animals and other living beings are threatened. A report by the Platform for the Right to Clean Air (THHP) states that one in three deaths in recent years in Iğdır was caused by air pollution. In addition, it is observed that severe environmental degradation has taken place in the province and especially in the areas bordering Armenia," Eksik said.

"Pollution is worsening rapidly"

Eksik remarked that the government is leaving the people of the province to deal with this situation alone. He continued, "The problem of air pollution in Iğdır should be solved by developing a special solution mechanism. Although the region is continental, it has a Mediterranean climate, and although the Aras River is an oasis for the city with its water and air, it has been dried up by dam projects. The dams are damaging the climate and destroying water resources. The fact that Iğdır has such polluted air is primarily a problem for which Turkey, and by extension the whole world, bear responsibility. The region used to be lush and fertile. Now everything is drying out. There is no greening and reforestation. Agricultural land is being usurped by the trustees, and the city government and the Ministry of Urban Development are releasing these fields as building land. This is how everything is concreted over."

"Living here is life-threatening"

Eksik pointed out that no measures have been taken for years, despite the constant deterioration of the readings: "Article 56 of the Constitution states: 'Everyone has the right to live in a healthy and balanced environment. The improvement and protection of the environment and the prevention of pollution are duties of the state and its citizens.' However, instead of fulfilling the constitutional duty, the people of Iğdır are literally left to die by the AKP. People in the three-country border province are struggling with both poverty and many diseases, especially cancer and respiratory diseases. In almost every family, there is someone who is either sick or has died from cancer or respiratory diseases. The birth of babies with disabilities and infant mortality have increased. Air pollution causes many diseases such as cancer, respiratory diseases, diseases of the circulatory system, diseases of the endocrine system, and internal diseases. This threat also applies to animal life. There is a need for a specific solution mechanism for Iğdır. Urgent action must be taken to stop the damage to the environment and humans."

"Poor quality coal has a negative impact"

Chemist Yusuf Abay, who is also from Iğdır, stated air pollution is a cause of many diseases such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which are disproportionately common in the region. One reason for the air pollution, he says, is the bad coal that is distributed. Abay noted that health facilities in the province are extremely inadequate in light of the problems, explaining that people have to be treated at regional hospitals in Van or Erzurum because of this inadequacy. He concluded, "In many houses in Iğdır, people live with oxygen equipment. There are asthma, COPD and bronchitis patients in many households. Poor coal and sealing of land are reasons for these ills."