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'Municipality's plans will harm Istanbul'

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 5/20/2010 12:00:00 AM |

City planners and academics say the 2009 environmental plan for Istanbul will have a negative effect on the city by opening up many previously protected areas to development. Contradictions in the municipality's plans are also exemplified by the decision to build a third bridge over the Bosphorus, the experts say at an Istanbul symposium

The Istanbul municipality’s contradictory plans for the city will lead to the destruction of the area’s environment and places that should be protected, city planning experts said at a symposium Thursday.

The Istanbul Environmental Plan approved by Mayor Kadir Topbaş in June 2009 has changed the status of many areas from “areas that need protection” to “areas open to construction,” Yıldız Uysal from the Istanbul branch of the Architects’ Chamber said at the second City Symposium, organized by the Turkish Union of Engineers’ and Architects’ Chambers, or TMMOB, on Thursday.

According to Uysal, agricultural areas and other locations designed for protection under the 2006 Istanbul Environmental Plan are being opened up to development. The new plan, she said, is the result of an understanding that aims to commercialize the city for business purposes rather than improve it for the good of all its residents.

One positive part of the 2009 plan, however, is its statement that a third bridge over the Bosphorus is unnecessary and will harm the city, Uysal said, noting that the plan calls for increased public transportation, including rail and ferries, and says Istanbul’s northward expansion “should be prevented as it will harm the fabric and nature of the city.”

“The Istanbul Environmental Plan, which says there should not be a third bridge over the strait in Istanbul, was approved June 15 by Mayor Kadir Topbaş,” Uysal said. “However, on Aug. 20, Topbaş said he knew six months earlier that there was a plan to construct of a third bridge. How could he approve a city plan that does not include a third bridge if he knew there was going to be one?”

This confusion, she said, will aid TMMOB’s case when the group goes to court against the construction of the third Bosphorus bridge.

The increase of construction in favor of capital owners rather than people is a result of neo-liberal policies, Binnur Öktem, an academic from Mimar Sinan University’s City Planning Department, said at the symposium. Such policies have accelerated since the rise of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and in 2002 and construction increased in natural areas, Öktem said.

Social polarization is reflected in the city’s spaces as rich people erect walls to separate their residences and workplaces from people in poorer neighborhoods, participants said, adding that this also reflected neo-liberal policies in the city.

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