Chamber of engineers and architects to be brought under ministry, draft bill says

Chamber of engineers and architects to be brought under ministry, draft bill says

Erdinç Çelikkan ANKARA
Chamber of engineers and architects to be brought under ministry, draft bill says

The controversial cruise port planned in the Istanbul Salıpazarı Port Area project, commonly known as Galataport, is among the many projects opposed by the TMMOB. The legal process regarding a stay of execution demand is still ongoing. DHA Photo

The government is working on a draft bill that will end the autonomy of Turkey’s chambers of engineers and architects, which have become well-known for opening lawsuits against controversial construction projects across the country.

All regulations prepared by the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) will not enter into force before advice and approval is received from the Environment and Urbanization Ministry, according to the bill. The TMMOB will also lose its public institutional structure and will no longer have the authority to file lawsuits against construction projects.

The ministry attempted to prepare the bill two years ago but it was canceled after harsh reactions against the moves. The new regulations on the structure of the TMMOB are included in the Construction Draft bill.

According to the bill, the TMMOB will be obliged to submit any new regulations to the ministry within six months, and the ministry will have the authority to extend this period for six further months at most. The changes that are not approved by the ministry within this period will automatically become invalid.

The bill will also decentralize the structure of TMMOB by allowing all provinces that have at least 25 official professions to establish a chamber for each profession. Each of these chambers will be named after the province where they are established.

The draft bill also plans to transform the TMMOB’s current majority system into a more proportional representation system.

The chamber is well-known for its actions against a number of government-led projects, including giant construction projects and “urban transformation” projects. Among the cases about which the TMMOB has filed lawsuits are:

-    A lawsuit demanding a halt to the execution and cancellation of environmental and construction plans for the third airport project in Istanbul.

-     A lawsuit demanding the cancellation of an Environmental Assessment Report (ÇED) that permitted the construction of a nuclear power plant in Akkuyu, a town in the southern province of Mersin. The council of state decided the halt of execution for the environmental plan of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant project.

-    A lawsuit against the construction of the controversial new presidential place inside the Atatürk Forest Farm in Ankara, on the grounds that the forest was a protected natural site. The Ankara 11th Administrative Court had canceled the decision to change the area’s natural site status, but the Council of State later cancelled the objection to this decision.

-    Seventeen lawsuits against construction plan amendments to the route of the third Bosphorus bridge project in Istanbul, filed by nine chamber unions.

-    A lawsuit to halt the execution of the Galataport project in Istanbul, which was accepted by the Council of State’s board.

-    Lawsuits against the privatization of the coal plants in the Yatağan, Yeniköy, Kemerköy and Çatalağzı neighborhoods. These cases are still ongoing.

In response to the government’s move to bring the TMMOB under the authority of the Environment and Urbanization Ministry, a social media campaign with the hashtag “TMMOB’a dokunma” (Don’t touch TMMOB) has been started among activists.

TMMOB head Mehmet Soğancı accused the government of aiming to “reduce the power” of the chamber by decentralizing it.