The Turkish Democracy Project (TDP) is calling on SNC-Lavalin, a Canadian engineering, procurement and construction consultancy firm, to immediately cease its association with Bandırma Gübre Fabrikaları A.Ş, a Turkish chemicals company notorious for severely polluting Turkey’s sea shores, devastating marine life and destroying biodiversity. 

In Fall 2021, TDP initiated a campaign investigating international companies with links to  corrupt Turkish construction firms and dubious government sponsored projects. TDP’s research has found that SNC-Lavalin (Lavalin) is associated with a number of controversial projects known to inflict significant environmental damage on the Turkish ecosystem.

Lavalin provides ongoing advisory consulting, engineering and commissioning services to Bandırma Gübre Fabrikaları A.Ş (Bagfas), including on the revamp of an existing calcium ammonium nitrate plant located on the south coast of the Marmara Sea. Environmental activists have condemned the project for its disastrous consequences on the Marmara Sea, which connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea. The Bagfas Chemical Fertilizer Factory has released massive amounts of sulfur into the Marmara Sea with total impunity since it opened in 2013. The pollution has created an increasingly thick layer of marine mucilage, known as “sea snot”, that is severely suffocating species by preventing light and oxygen exposure for plants and fish below. 

Bagfas is closely associated with Erdogan and his ruling AKP Party, helping to advance the President’s policy of eliminating foreign imports of fertilizers. In 2013, Erdogan promised a total investment of €165 million ($181.5 million) in the company. Erdogan’s unwavering patronage has enabled the company to increase production at the expense of the environment – a cost borne also by the Turkish people. Despite ample evidence and inspection reports of pollution provided by citizens and authorities, the Turkish Judiciary has repeatedly refused to take steps against Bagfas. It was only at the height of the “sea snot” crisis, last July, that the government finally asked Bagfas to prevent chemical discharges entering the sea. After a closure of only a few months, the plant was allowed to reopen after it “fulfilled necessary obligations”. In February this year, Turkish media reported the reappearance of sea snot, suggesting that Turkish chemical plants, such as Bagfas, are still not fulfilling their environmental obligations.

Having identified substantial legal, reputational and environmental risks implicating Lavalin through its association with Bagfas, TDP sent a letter on February 12, 2022 to Lavalin’s President and CEO Ian L. Edwards. 

Commenting on Lavalin’s lack of response and continued association with the Turkish firm, Ambassador Mark Wallace, CEO of the Turkish Democracy Project, said: 

We urge Lavalin to immediately sever its ties with Bagfas and withdraw from the Marmara Sea project which is destroying marine life and threatening the region’s ecosystem. The Turkish regime has embroiled the chemicals, mining and metallurgy industries in corruption, abuse of power, and environmental disasters and must be held accountable. This partnership goes directly against Lavalin’s stated commitment to UN sustainable development goals and its supposed dedication to climate action and clean water.”