Ümit Balak may be the only mayor in the world who is campaigning to bury his own village.
Tuzköy, a community of about 2,000 people near Nevşehir in central Turkey, is blighted by an epidemic of cancer and lung disease linked to erionite, a rare and highly toxic mineral present in local rocks.
"In the course of time, we hope this place will be completely covered in soil, planted with trees, and that no one will again die of cancer," Balak said.
That drastic solution is now closer to becoming reality. Last month, authorities concluded a process that allowed villagers to apply for new housing being built nearby. A tender for the construction of the houses is now beginning, and they are expected to be built within 18 months, paving the way for the burial of the old town.
It comes after three decades of government inaction, but now residents are angered that they may be forced to pay for their new homes. "Some people have money, but many don't, and it's putting many people into debt," commented Gürbüz Eryılmaz, the 50-year-old headman of Tuzköy's Yeni neighborhood.
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