ISTANBUL, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- Tens of thousands of Turks on Monday held a so-called "Big Gathering" against the destruction of a large forested area in the northwestern province of Canakkale for the construction of a gold mine by a Canadian company.
Upon the continuous calls by several environmental groups and local authorities, people from all over the country gathered at the area, where the Canadian Alamos Gold Inc. has reportedly chopped down nearly 200,000 trees for the construction of a cyanide gold mine.
Mayor of the Canakkale city Ulgur Gokhan urged people to join the struggle of locals and save the area from the hands of the miners by exposing the destruction with a video posted on his Twitter account.
"Our fight is for the environment, living creatures, oxygen and the ecosystem," said Gokhan.
The crowd, among them lawmakers from the main opposition Republican People's Party, members of bar associations, artists, columnists and environmentalists, first joined the protesters who have been on guard on the scene for days.
After a two-km march, the masses entered the construction zone and crossed wired fences, despite the attempt to stop them by gendarmerie forces, local media reported.
"Do not touch my tree," "We do not want gold mine," "Those who destruct nature are traitors," read some banners carried by the protesters.
The demonstrators symbolically planted 20 young trees on the deserted area and urged the authorities to halt all the mining activities by the Canadian company.
The Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats (TEMA) earlier revealed that 195,000 trees were felled by the company, while the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry maintained that the number was 13,400.
According to the Canakkale mayor, the figure of the ministry was not correct.
"We invite them to come here and see on the site," Gokhan was quoted as saying by T24, an online news portal.
In a recent written statement, the TEMA said 98.7 percent of the construction site is a forested area which hosts diverse species of animals and hundreds of distinct plant varieties.
It also noted that the project is posing a severe threat to public health, as the mining site is getting water from Atikhisar Dam, the only water source for nearly 180,000 residents.
T24 said the Canakkale municipality has written to the Canadian prime minister to inform him about the extensive destruction of the environment in the area.