Ministry’s plan allows facilities to be built in Turkey's untouched Ihlara Valley
Erdinç Çelikkan – ANKARA
HÜRRİYET PhotoThe Turkish Environment and Urbanization Ministry has prepared a special environment protection plan for the Ihlara Valley in Turkey’s central Anatolian province of Aksaray, where the construction of daily facilities such as buffets and tea gardens will be permitted.
The Ihlara Valley, which resembles an open air museum due to its geological properties, will be protected under the plan by allowing the establishment of restaurants, shops and other facilities that serve daily needs, according to the Ihlara Valley Special Environment Protection Plan finalized by the Environment Ministry.
The 134-page plan, which also contains information about the valley’s natural properties, its geographical location and the forthcoming work planned for around the area, allows for the opening of facilities which would be used for daily purposes. These facilities include buffets, tea gardens and toilets, which will be managed with a one-day use protocol.
The plan stated these facilities would be built with the approval of the Nevşehir Cultural Assets Conservation Regional Board and the Environment Ministry on spaces that are divided as “Delicate A” and “Delicate B” areas.
Walking and hiking paths inside the valley can be constructed, while current roads will be repaired, according to the plan.
If the application projects are approved, energy transmission and communications lines could be installed both below and above ground. In urgent cases, sewage and portable water facilities could also be built.
Poplar trees and willows which were planted by humans and have reached the age of being cut can be felled with the new plan.
Scientific works will be conducted to enhance the valley’s contribution to tourism on economic, social and cultural aspects from 2015-2019, according to the plan.
Baran Bozoğlu, the head of the Environmental Issues Research Center, questioned the ministry’s plan, stating it had not specified a limit to the construction of daily use facilities, adding that such an allowance was “nonsense.”
“There is no limit for the daily facilities. How many will be constructed? How big will they be? There is no wording about it. You could have a meal inside a tea garden too,” said Bozoğlu, adding that there were endemic species in the region.
The Ihlara Valley contains hundreds of rock-carved places, chapels, five underground cities and 13 churches as well as dozens of empty stone buildings. The valley has been plundered by treasure hunters for years.
More than 438,000 people visited Ihlara Valley in 2014 with its new walking routes, trekking fields, environmental rearrangements and restored churches.
One of the cathedrals inside the Ihlara Valley, the Selime Cathedral, draws more than 300,000 visitors from Europe and the Far East every year.
The valley, which was used as a settlement area by villagers until 40 years ago, contains hundreds of rock-carved living areas connected to each other through tunnels.