Residential estates, hospitals or golf courses to be exempt from environmental assessments
Huge residential complexes are being built in Istanbul forests, like the controversial Maslak 1453 of Ali Ağaoğlu, a businessman known for hisclose ties with the government. Construction is still ongoing, despite the project has attracted backlash from the public since its announcement. Such residential estates still don't require any environmental assessment despite being built in the limits of the Belgrade Forests.A new regulation drafted by the Environment Ministry will exempt many facilities, including residential estates, hospitals and golf courses from environmental assessments.
The current legislation requires environmental impact assessment reports for residential complexes of more than 2,000 blocks and project presentation files for complexes with more than 200 buildings. However, according to the new draft, project presentation files will be enough for all residential estates of more than 500 units.
The new regulation also lifts mandatory environmental reports for hospitals with more than 500 beds, and golf courses larger than 50 hectares.
The changes come onto the agenda at a time when a number of huge urban transformation projects affecting large areas, particularly in Istanbul and Ankara, are planned.
Meanwhile, the new regulation also introduces mandatory environmental impact assessment reports for micro hydroelectric power plants that produce between 10 and 25 MWh. Such facilities have been exempt from environmental assessments until know, a practice that has drawn huge criticism from environmental activists.
Activists also regularly denounce the methods with which the assessments are prepared, stressing the need not only to assess the consequences of the plant, but also the potential cumulative effects of all plants planned in one stream.
A change in the regulation of wind power facilities could prove more controversial. According to the new law, an environmental assessment will be required for wind power plants producing more than 50 MWh of electricity, instead of the 20 turbine threshold in the previous regulation. Experts say the number of turbines is more indicative of the damage caused to the environment.
The environment assessment reports are a key component of the current legal fights for the construction of energy facilities and construction projects in legally protected nature areas. In many cases, the reports are approved by the ministry despite flaws or clear potential negative impacts.
Turkey’s first nuclear plant in Akkuyu is one of those disputed cases, with construction starting despite information in the assessment report that clearly indicated ecological risks.