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11.11.2008

Increase in gas prices brings back coal

Hurriyet Daily News

ANKARA - The recent increase in the price of natural gas, likely to cause a return to coal heating, has created concern in Ankara that the city will again face air pollution problems.
Air pollution, caused by the use of coal, seriously hit the capital in the early 1990s, just prior to the shift from coal to natural gas. With the recent price increase in household natural gas of 22.5 percent introduced Nov. 1, experts warn people may return to using traditional coal heaters and the capital may again face air pollution issues. The total price increase in natural gas in the last 10 months has surpassed 60 percent.

Speaking to the daily Hürriyet, former Ankara mayor and leader of the Social Democratic People's Party, or SHP, Murat Karayalçın said natural gas was vital for the capital and the public should be encouraged to use natural gas instead of coal. "The topography and conditions peculiar to Ankara indicate natural gas is extremely important for the city. Ankara citizens should be encouraged to use natural gas," he said. "However, the policies of the municipality since 1996 have been unfortunate. The Ankara Municipality has not done what it should have done."

Karayalçın claimed the municipality had a large debt to the Petroleum Pipeline Corporation, or BOTAŞ, and money collected from Ankara citizens since 2006 had not been paid to BOTAŞ. He said another mistake made by the municipality was privatization of natural gas in May 2007. "Natural gas processing belongs to the state. It is unacceptable for natural gas, owned by the state, to be sold to the private sector. The municipality failed to pay its debt to BOTAŞ and is responsible for price increases in natural gas," he said.

A new era began with recent price increases and measures should be taken to prevent possible negative effects on Ankara, he said. Atilla Hışır, chairman of the Ankara Branch of the Chamber of Environmental Engineers, or ÇMO, said Ankara faced air pollution problems at the beginning of the 1990s and recent price increases could cause Ankara to face similar problems again.

"The topographical features of Ankara, which has a dish-like appearance, increases the severity of air pollution in the city. Price hikes will lead people to use cheaper and poorer quality fake coal, this will inevitably result in air pollution," he said.

Meanwhile, Semra Tuncel of the Middle East Technical University, or METU, said they have pursued many projects to prevent pollution in Ankara, but recent price hikes make these efforts useless. Additionally, heart attacks and microbiological diseases are likely to increase with more air pollutionWWW