Campaign asks gov’t to cancel environment bill

Campaign asks gov’t to cancel environment bill

Campaign asks gov’t to cancel environment bill

Forests near Istanbul are seen in this photo. A draft law on environment is criticized for leading to open natural, protected areas to construction by citing ‘great public welfare’ as an excuse. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

A campaign has been launched by civil society organizations and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) against a draft law on protecting natural and cultural areas on the grounds that the motion will actually remove protection on such areas.

Activists and CHP deputies have criticized the draft law to protect nature and bio-diversity, saving its paves the way to open natural, protected areas to construction by citing “great public welfare” as an excuse. The bill says that “if strategic areas seen important for great public welfare are inside the areas that should necessitates protection, then their management under certain conditions should be enabled.” 

Vague definition

The Chamber of Environment Engineers says “great public welfare” is a wide and vague definition that could easily be used to damage natural areas for touristic, industrial or other reasons. The bill has also been criticized for leaving protected areas under ministries’ auditing; only informing locals about the future of the protected areas rather than allowing them to participate in the sites’ upkeep, and not including the term “national park,” which might threaten the protection of natural parks in Turkey.

CHP deputy Mustafa Serdar Soydan, who is one of five deputies on Parliament’s Environment Commission, said his party could rewrite the bill with the participation of NGOs and universities, adding that the current version of the bill opens protected areas to construction. 

Soydan, who signed a dissenting opinion on the draft law, recently told the Hürriyet Daily News that the law would not benefit the country or its citizens. 

“Natural, protected areas form around 4 percent of [Turkish land] while this rate is 14 percent in the European Union. Instead of increasing this [rate], this draft law is leaving the protection job to the ministries, which will spoil these areas,” said Soydan, adding that the CHP would oppose the bill in Parliament and make contacts with the EU if it cannot prevent the passage of the bill. 

But Erol Kaya, the head of the Environment Commission, told the Daily News that the concerns about “great public welfare” were exaggerated. Kaya, a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy, said all the concerns and criticisms would be discussed in Parliament, adding that these concerns were a result of misinformation or not reading the draft in detail. 

Kaya said he had met with NGOs in a recent meeting and told them that the concerns on the draft were exaggerated. “All the laws are under the judiciary’s inspection.” As of yesterday, more than 34,000 people had signed a petition with the hashtag #voicefornature at the website, calling on the prime minister, parliamentary speaker and forestry and water minister to remove the draft law.