Bilge water facility project sparks outcry on Aegean island
Şehriban OĞHAN ÇANAKKALE
The bilge water facility will be located between a national park and a public beach on the islandA project to build a bilge water facility project on the Aegean island of Gökçeada has sparked anger among locals, who expressed concern about the potential environmental damage to the island, which is renowned for its underwater national park and organic farming, particularly its vineyards.
Plans for the new construction were completed by the previous municipality, led by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and only became public when the Environment Ministry informed the new mayor from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) that it had been approved.
The new municipality is now trying to find a way to avoid the realization of the project, which will be located between a national park and a public beach on the island, while locals are also increasing their voice against it.
Incumbent Mayor Ünal Çetin said the demand to approve the project was written only two days before the March 30 local elections.
“Just 10 or 15 days after I took office, a friend from the Environment Ministry called me in congratulations. On May 16, we received a letter demanding that the facility be made operational within 45 days,” said Çetin.
He added that his municipality was striving to make the island known as an “organic island” and the new facility would damage Gökçeada’s reputation.
“While we are making efforts for sustainable tourism, we don’t want to lose our time with such things. If they try to push the project by sidelining the mayoralty, we will adopt a different strategy. But we are not at that stage yet,” Çetin said.
The head of Gökçeada’s environmental association, Nadire Çıplak, stressed that the area chosen for the construction of the facility was next to the only port of entry to the island. “People who come here currently arrive to the smell of fresh basil. If the facility is built, the island will welcome with the smell of bilge,” Çıplak said.
“There have been huge investments in organic farming here. If this facility is built, everything will be destroyed,” he added.
The former mayor, Yücel Atalay, said the protocol for the project had been canceled after the property of the land changed, but argued that the island needed the facility for economic reasons.
Gökçeada, also known by its Greek name İmroz, is renowned for its traditional cultural heritage and also sheep farming. The island has developed a niche tourism sector over the years, as a pleasant contrast to crowded resort towns, and its coast is a major protected area due to its rich underwater nature.