‘Green Road’ construction restarted despite lack of permit
RİZE – Doğan News Agency
AA PhotosThe construction of a controversial 2,600-kilometer road project to connect highland areas in eight provinces in northern Turkey has been restarted after a 42-day halt despite vociferous opposition from locals and environmental advocates, as well as the lack of an official permit and an ongoing case against the project.
The construction work for the contentious “Green Road” project, a 2,600-kilometer-long project to connect the villages of eight Black Sea provinces, started in the Samistal village in the Black Sea province of Rize with an escort by gendarmerie forces early Aug. 21.
Locals and lawyers rushing to the village expressed their criticism at the restart of the construction work even though the court is a week away from issuing a ruling in the case filed against the project.
No one had the right or official permit to start construction work while the case is continuing, said Fatih Tarakçı, one of the locals protesting the road construction.
“They are operating caterpillars with the company of soldiers. Our problem is not with the workers here nor with the soldiers,” Tarakçı said, adding that the problem was the arbitrary construction of a road on a pastoral national park.
İbrahim Demirci, a lawyer speaking on behalf of those not allowed by gendarmerie forces to approach the caterpillars, said the vast green area, including Samistal, was listed as a national park and a natural area in 1998 and that both the Environment and Urbanization Ministry and the Cultural and Natural Assets Protection Board had not issued any permit for the “Green Road” project.
“We filed a query with the Environment and Urbanization Ministry [to ask whether there are any construction permit for the ‘Green Road’], but they told us in a letter that the ministry had issued no permit or approval document for the ‘Green Road’ project,” Demirci said.
Demirci said workers showed only business contracts and workplace permits when asked to show the official permit for the road construction.
“We need to see an official permit from the ministry. Here is a national park and everything has to be painstakingly planned here,” said Demirci. “The construction work is unlawful.”
The construction work of the controversial road project first started in Rize’s Çamlıhemşin district in early July, and was brought to a halt after facing concerted resistance from a large group of locals, lawyers, activists and representatives of several environmental organizations and rights groups.
Meanwhile, a protest was staged against the restart of the road’s construction in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district by members of the Fırtına Initiative, an environmental organization fighting to protect green areas in northern Turkey.
The Fırtına Initiative called on all environment and ecology organizations and deputies to help the environment advocates stop the unlawful construction, initiative spokesperson Gökçe Yılmaz said at a press briefing following the protest.
The controversial road construction has been protested by locals and environmentalists since early July, when heavy machinery was brought to the highlands to cut down trees in Rize. Sit-in protests were staged to prevent them from working, while gendarmerie forces attacked the groups by forcibly dragging them away after they refused to move from in front of demolition trucks.
The project has been widely criticized for its negative impact not only on the environmental character of the areas affected but also on the culture and lifestyle of local residents, destroying the unique nature of the highland villages.