Aegean island known for its wine under ‘urbanization’ threat

Aegean island known for its wine under ‘urbanization’ threat

Aegean island known for its wine under ‘urbanization’ threat

Bozcaada is the latest unspoiled paradise to be threatened by modern tourism. DHA Photo

A new urbanization plan for the western provinces of Çanakkale and Balıkesir will pave the way to opening the Aegean island of Bozcaada, one of Turkey's untouched tourism destinations, to vast construction projects.

The plan, which was officially announced earlier this month, projects granting licenses for building new “vineyard houses” and “agricultural plants” on almost 90 percent of the island’s territories.

The move came after Bozcaada locals reacted against a smaller plan revealed last year, having filed a legal complaint in a bid to cancel the plan.

The new plan, which automatically cancels last year's plan, looks certain to heighten concerns, as it foresees the Aquarium Bay, a sun kissed beach currently open to the public, as an “urban development area.” The eastern parts of the island are also marked as “tourism facilities area” in the new plan.

Experts say the plan will lead to the construction by the shore of 75-square-meter to 150-square-meter villas, so called “vineyard houses."

Bozcaada is known for its wines, with several of its local brands appreciated across Turkey and abroad. There are currently vineyard houses on the island, but these are relatively small and traditional buildings surrounded by vineyards.

The new code obliges an “urban design guide” to guarantee that the new buildings will match the architectural characteristics of the island. However, it also foresees the construction of a 20 meter-wide road across Bozcaada, and points to a projected population boom from the current 2,465 to 11,000 in 2040. 

The Chamber of Urban Planners is preparing to legally object the new plan.

For the past 50 years, the island has maintained a steady population, with figures for 1965 showing 2,141 people residing on the island, which is situated off of the coast of Çanakkale in the Aegean Sea. The summer population at the high season does not exceed 5,000, and the accommodation capacity is limited. Mainly small lodging houses in the center of the island have been utilized to offer accommodation opportunities, while Bozcaada also hosts campers.

There are a limited number of private cars on the island, and its largest village produces its own electricity via wind tribunes, a pioneer project in Turkey.

Along with wines, the island is also famous for its restaurants that serve olive oil dishes and local fish. It is also known for its crystal clear waters, although the sea is typically considered cold for those who are not used to it.