Ankara mayor says ODTÜ ‘not a second Gezi’
DHA Photo“Militant groups” are attempting to transform a recent row over the cutting of trees at Ankara’s Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) into a second Gezi Park protest, Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek has said, while claiming their efforts are doomed to failure.
“Militant groups are trying to do a second Gezi incident in Ankara. But Ankara won’t be a second Gezi,” the Justice and Development Party (AKP) mayor said, according to daily Hürriyet.
Gökçek, known for his lively Twitter commentary and often controversial statements, responded to the recent fury over the ODTÜ road plans, which will result in the destruction of the campus’ forested area to make way for a road to connect Anadolu Boulevard and Konya Highway.
Gökçek accused the ODTÜ administration of trying to solve the issue of “illegal ODTÜ buildings” through the protected site controversy, refuting claims that the road would “divide up the campus in half.”
Only half of the road would overlap with the ODTÜ area, and only 400 meters of that is a protected site, Gökçek said.
“I guarantee the planting of 10,000 full-grown trees in any area chosen by the ODTÜ administration. I wonder who they could deceive with ‘they are massacring trees here’ lines when I’m here making such an offer,” Gökçek said.
The construction of the planned road project, which will cross the ODTÜ campus and lead to the cutting down of trees on its way, has caused a strong backlash in Ankara, prompting students and environmentalists to stage demonstrations in the area.
The Culture and Tourism Ministry’s Ankara Culture and Nature Protection Board’s decision on March 6, 1995, previously described the area inside ODTÜ’s campus as a natural site area, while adding that some areas in the campus were declared as archaeological site areas as well.
Ankara Metropolitan Municipality’s decision on March 15, which was signed by Gökçek, says the project will enter a “natural site area for around 9,000 meters at the Dumlupınar crossroads, also entering at the ODTÜ first forestry area, an area of around 8,000 meters. There are partial properties of ODTÜ and 5,000 meters of private property along the route.”
The ministry used to make decisions on natural site areas, but after legislative decrees taken on June 29, 2011, and Aug. 17, 2011, the decisions regarding such areas now fall under the purview of the Environment and Urbanization Ministry.