Wording change to national parks regulation ‘could lead to devastating consequences’
Serkan OCAK ISTANBUL / Radikal
Several hydro-electric plant (HES) projects threaten the Kaçkar Mountains national park in the eastern Black Sea region.A change of wording in an amendment to the national parks regulation published in the Official Gazette March 19 could lead to “devastating consequences for the environment,” lawyers say.
According to the amendment in Article 5 of the regulation that dates back to 1986, a “long-term development plan” for any facility related to drinking water inside the limits of a national park will not be sought if it is considered be in line with the “general public interest.”
The sentence introduced to the article states the following: “A long-term development plan condition will not be sought for facilities that provide an urgently supply of drinkable water and are therefore irreplaceable in terms of the general interest. Long-term development plans will be inscribed [to the project] after the opinions of the relevant institutions have been taken.”
Lawyers claim that the wording of the sentence has been left deliberately vague and open to arbitrary interpretation.
“All the impacts of any facility to be constructed inside national parks should be determined one by one. But the plans prepared by scientists are losing their importance [with the new regulation]. And who will determine the ‘general interest’?” lawyer Barış Yıldırım asked.
Yıldırım, who has represented locals in the eastern province of Tunceli’s Munzur national park against the construction of an hydro-electric plant, also said the term “drinkable water” could be used to “disguise bad will.”
“In the new regulation, they use an innocent term such as drinkable water. But there is clearly bad will behind it. It has been written in a very unclear manner and this obfuscation was deliberate,” Yıldırım said.
He added that not seeking long-term development plans clearly contradicted Article 4 of the regulation and provided a possible “bypass.”
Lawyer Alper Tekin Ocak, who is working on the case related to the construction of Istanbul’s third airport, stressed that “general interest” could be used for all controversial energy-related investments.
“Energy transportation lines that create electromagnetic fields could cross national parks. Or a coal thermal plant, even a nuclear plant or a hydro-electric plant considered ‘in the general interest’ could be built inside a national park. It leaves a wide scope [for interpretation],” Ocak said.
The national parks regulation amendment comes as controversy looms regarding the mandatory environmental impact assessment (ÇED) report related to the construction of Istanbul’s third airport, which is planned to be built in a large forested area on the city’s European side.