Court halts highway plan to connect Istanbul, İzmir
ANKARA - Anatolia News Agency
Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım (R) is seen speaking to the press in this Sept 27 photo while annonucing details of a vast highway project to connect İzmir and Istanbul.The largest build-operate-transfer project, Gebze-Orhangazi-İzmir Highway has been put on hold by the State Council, repealing a Prime Ministry notice exempting the project from environmental impact assessments (ÇED).
Following the court decision, the Prime Minister’s office has a right to appeal to the Plenary Session of Administrative Law Divisions, but it must carry out the court decision within 30 days.
An environmental impact assessment process should be still conducted regarding the highway project, even if the Prime Ministry appeals, according to Arif Ali Cangı, the lawyer of the Chamber of the Landscapes and the Aegean Environment and Culture Platform, which challenged the highway project and the Prime Ministry’s notice at the court. Turkish laws require proof of a positive environmental impact before construction projects start.
The groundbreaking ceremony of the project, including the construction of the Gulf Bridge in the İzmit Gulf, was held October 2010. The estimated cost of the project is $6.5 billion. The highway will reduce the distance between Istanbul and İzmir in the Aegean province to less than 4 hours, compared to the current eight. “This court ruling shows that the order of the Prime Minister to finish the project in five years, even at the expense of the environment, is nothing but over-ambitiousness. The Ministry of the Environment and Urban Planning can no longer insist on ÇED exemptions due to this decision,” said Emre Baturay, a lawyer of the Chamber of the Landscapes.