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Experts slam AKP plans to add two new cities to Istanbul

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 4/21/2011 12:00:00 AM | ERISA DAUTAJ ŞENERDEM

The ruling party's plans to add two new cities to Istanbul will destroy the environment and create unsustainable population growth, experts have said.

Plans to add two new cities to Istanbul will lead to unsustainable population growth and environmental devastation, experts have said following the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP’s, announcement of the proposal.

“Projects that put long-term life [in a city] at risk for short-term financial interests are shameful, and can only be put forward in ignorance. Authorities must be very careful when planning such projects,” Beyza Üstün, a member of the Istanbul Environmental Engineers Chamber, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Thursday.

The degradation of nature that would occur as a result of implementing the plan would harm the ecology and future generations, Üstün said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last week while announcing his party’s election manifesto that the AKP planned to add two more new cities to Istanbul in order to provide a livable environment for its residents.

“Adding two more cities is completely incompatible with a livable environment. It is a wrong project and must be reviewed,” Tayfun Kahraman, the chair of the Istanbul City Planners Chamber, told the Daily News in a phone interview Wednesday. He said there was no need for the project and that it would destroy the city’s natural resources.

“If the forested areas in Istanbul – the only places left without settlements – are destroyed to build new cities there, Istanbul citizens will be left facing [more] pollution,” Üstüner said, noting that forest ecosystems provide clean oxygen for the city and help absorb air and water pollution.

“Istanbul needs projects that can bring its population growth under control, slowing it down – if not stopping it,” Erhan Demirdizen, the former chairman of Istanbul’s City Planners Chamber, told the Daily News in a phone interview Thursday. “Istanbul’s population growth rate has decreased a bit recently, but it is still the largest immigrant-receiving Turkish province.” According to Demirdizen, Istanbul’s population has already reached the maximum level the city can sustain.

“What Istanbul really needs is restoration, renewal, reinforcement and resistance against the earthquake risk,” Oktay Ekinci, the former chairman of Turkey’s Architects Chamber, told the Daily News on Tuesday. “The only [groups] that would profit from such a plan are the real-estate agents and mortgage markets.”

The AKP’s project could even have a negative effect on the city’s earthquake preparedness by crowding more people toward its boundaries, Demirdizen said. “No project that opens the way to a faster increase in Istanbul’s population will help the province resist earthquakes,” he said.

Ekinci said he was shocked that Erdoğan, who previously served as Istanbul mayor, could propose such a plan while knowing all the realities of life in the city. “I can only laugh at this.”

[HH] New city on Anatolian side ‘violates Constitution’

The prime minister did not specify in which part of Istanbul the two new cities would be established, but there has been a general consensus in the public debates that one would be located on the European side and the other on the Anatolian side.

“A plan to establish a new city on Istanbul’s Anatolian side would be inconsistent with its master plan,” Demirdizen said, adding that there are no free spaces suitable for building a new settlement on that side. “The only free areas are forest areas and those surrounding drinking-water basins, which are protected by the Constitution, existing laws and the [city’s urban] plan.”

He said the only alternative was to generate urban-transformation projects in areas that are already populated.

The possibility of locating one of the cities near Silivri, on the European side, could be feasible if agricultural areas are turned into developed ones, but existing legislation says this should not be done unless absolutely necessary, Demirdizen said.

Plans to add additional settlements to Istanbul are not new, and were in fact mentioned in the city’s master plan approved in 2009, Kahraman told the Daily News, emphasizing that the approach was a wrong one and must be changed.

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