Clear-cut for Istanbul forest park stirs debate

Clear-cut for Istanbul forest park stirs debate

ISTANBUL - Doğan News Agency
Clear-cut for Istanbul forest park stirs debate HDN Trees are being felled in Istanbul’s Beykoz district in order to make room for facilities as part of a giant forest park project conducted by the Forestry and Waterworks Ministry.

The project is located on 8 million square meters of forested land around the Elmalı Dam Lake, one of the city’s most important water sources on the Anatolian side. The giant new park, called "Elmalı Forest Park – 7 Regions and 7 Parks," will represent the seven regions and 81 cities of Turkey in separate picnic areas named after different flowers.

A debate over the project has erupted after satellite photos revealed a deforested area in Beykoz, triggering questions over the project.

A member of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Council from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Hakkı Sağlam, brought the debate to the council’s December meeting and submitted a question to Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş, asking for an official response over the felling.

Sağlam also asked Istanbul’s Waterworks Authority (İSKİ) for a comment about the project, demanding to know why a number of trees were being cut down in the region’s last remaining green area and in an important water basin.

He said the deforestation was actually a ploy to open the area to construction, adding that more trees had already been felled for the construction of a new highway in northern Istanbul.

The CHP council member asked who gave permission for the forest park and when, while also inquiring about the exact number of trees that were cut down for the project.

Some are attempting to lay claim to the area in the long term through the construction of villas, he said, adding that they would pursue all judicial avenues against construction in the area.

The project will include bicycle paths, a paintball area, sports facilities, tulip gardens, prayer rooms and recreational areas. Barbecues will not be allowed within the forest parks, but there will be restaurants and cafes offering catering to visitors. The Elmalı Dam Lake will be cleaned and seven bridges will be built to reach the walking paths. Seven gates will also be built at the entrance of the seven regions. In the project, the area between the TEM highway and dam lake has been reserved for wildlife. The project is expected to be completed in two years.

The Forestry and Waterworks Ministry announced last year that each province in the country would have at least one forest park, while Istanbul would host two parks, one near the Alibeyköy Dam on the European side, the other near the Elmalı Dam on the Anatolian side.

The forest park near the Alibeyköy pond will cover an area of 520 hectares while the Elmalı Park will be located on an 878-hectare area.