Cafe at birdwatching tower stirs debate

Cafe at birdwatching tower stirs debate

Burcu Purtul Uçar-ISTANBUL
Cafe at birdwatching tower stirs debate

A café launched under a birdwatching tower in the Sarıyer district of Istanbul has triggered a dispute between birdwatchers and the officials.

“We feel like outsiders now, we cannot do birdwatching here anymore,” said the birdwatchers.

The Feneryolu birdwatching tower, at the heart of the controversy, was built in 2015 jointly by the Agriculture Ministry’s National Parks Administration and Istanbul Development Agency.

Three years later, the Rumeli Lighthouse Association for the Protection of Natural Life rented the place for five years.

The association converted the space under the tower, which was used by birdwatchers for educational purposes, into a café and put tables outside the tower.

“Children used to get training there about birds. Birdwatchers were coming here from abroad. They put tables everywhere. A lot of people are coming to the cafe, so we can’t birdwatch,” said Ergün Bacak, an ornithologist from Istanbul University who also blames the cafe managers for cutting trees.

“This is one of the five spots in the world where you can watch gliding migratory birds. The terrace of the tower is full of customers of the cafe. We feel alienated,” said Zeynel Arslangündoğdu, an academic at the same university.

“This was not the intended purpose of building the tower in the first place,” he added.

Şafak Kılınç, who previously served as a muhtar — the local head of the neighborhood — of Rumeli Feneri for 20 years and now the manager of the cafe, rejected the accusations.

“Everything here is wooden and compatible with nature. We did not cut down trees,” said Kılınç.

“It is a place open to the public,” Resul Doğan, the general manager of National Parks Administration, said.

“We rented the place for five years with the approval of the ministry. The cafe will serve everybody. Birdwatchers love to be alone in nature. But this a place where people can come. So, they are getting bothered by the crowd,” he said.

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