Toxic Valley

The story of the most heavily industrialised area of Turkey.

For six months, The Black Sea and the European Investigative Collaborations network have investigated the public health crisis in Kocaeli, the most heavily industrialised region in Turkey. We have revealed of a pattern of chemical dumping and polluting that has led to a widespread health crisis in the region.

One small town, Dilovası, home to around 45,000 residents, bears the most serious consequences of three decades of unbridled industrial development, with widespread health problems among the locals, filthy air, soil, and waters, caused by uncontrolled pollution.

We found that the Kocaeli region was home to more than 2000 companies, with around 15 percent of these having some foreign ownership, and most from the EU. German companies are at the top of the list.

The Turkish state knows the extent of the locals' misery. Yet it not only ignores the scientific evidence, it actively encourages new polluting businesses to the area.

With key health data withheld by the Turkish government, we spoke instead with dozens of locals; adults and children with serious, chronic health problems, and with doctors and other professionals who are too scared to speak about an ongoing public health disaster. Independent studies have shown that even mother’s breast-milk and newborn babies are affected by unhealthy levels of contaminants.

The team

Initiators

Zeynep Sentek, Craig Shaw (The Black Sea)

Participants

Reporters: Zeynep Sentek, Craig Shaw, Mina Eroglu, Elif Alcinkaya (The Black Sea), Dogu Eroglu (Medyascope), Yann Philippin (Mediapart), Jeroen Wester (NRC), Maximilian Popp (Der Spiegel).