Environmental fears rise as ‘green haven’ in Black Sea region turned into ‘attraction center’

Environmental fears rise as ‘green haven’ in Black Sea region turned into ‘attraction center’

Environmental fears rise as ‘green haven’ in Black Sea region turned into ‘attraction center’ Authorities a preparing to turn the Ayder Plateau in the Çamlıhemşin district of the Black Sea province of Rize into an “attraction center,” raising fears of construction projects and environmental destruction in the famously idyllic area.

 The plateau lies in the foothills of the Kaçkar Mountains and attracts thousands of tourists every year due to its natural beauty, and the government claims it wants to prevent “unlicensed construction” in the area.

The Ayder Plateau was initially declared a tourism center in 1987 and was declared a natural protected zone in 1998. It was later declared a “Culture and Tourism Protection Development Region” in 2006 with a cabinet decision.  

After the building of hundreds of structures in the area, 260 out of 290 constructions were taken to court in 2014, with the court ruling for the demolition of 158 of them for lacking a license. However, the demolitions did not take place as no firms participated in the tender for the demolition. 

Upon the order of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) got involved in the issue, kicking off a preliminary qualification tender for a “Regional Transformation and Development Project” upon consultation with residents of the area.

Five companies have bid in the tender and the authorities are currently examining these bids. 

Describing the plateau as a “tourism locomotive” of the Black Sea region, Çamlıhemşin Mayor Osman Haşimoğlu noted that without the Ayder Plateau there would not be tourism in the region.

“We need to support and strengthen supply and demand via plans. It’s possible to protect nature with a plan.

 A bad plan is better than no plan at all. The current structure was developed only for protection purposes, which doesn’t allow any construction,” Haşimoğlu told state-run Anadolu Agency, adding that the process will be carried out through TOKİ.

“It will be a joint work carried out by five related ministries, the local governorship and the local municipality. After the planning, the value will be determined. A plan will be formed that will look out for the protection and usage balance. If there are buildings that need to be demolished, they will be,” he said. 

Ayder Tourism Association head Ömer Altun, meanwhile, said the plateau is already a well-known place that should be further developed through construction to widen its appeal among tourists.

“We are waiting for an urgent solution. We will become an attraction center,” Altun said.