Locals celebrate ruling to protect Honey Forest

Locals celebrate ruling to protect Honey Forest

RİZE – Demirören News Agency
Locals celebrate ruling to protect Honey Forest

Locals in the Hemşin Valley in Turkey’s Black Sea province of Rize have celebrated a court decision in favor of protecting the area, which is home to many wild animal species.

The Administrative Court in Rize ruled that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report should necessarily be prepared for a planned stone quarry to be opened in the Hemşin Valley area, dismissing a previous decision by the General Directorate of Mining Affairs.

An EIA report would not be necessary only if the project area was less than 25 hectares, but the mentioned stone quarry is projected to be built on a land of 98 hectares, the court said.

The Hemşin Valley, also known as the Honey Forest, has been designated by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) foundation as one of the 200 ecological valleys that should be protected. The area is especially renowned for the organic honey and tea products cultivated by traditional methods. With its rich flora of chestnut, hornbeam, alder, pine, spruce and beech trees, it is also home to wild animals under risk of extinction such as red trouts, otters and water lizards.

Locals living in the nearby Levent village celebrated the court decision by dancing the traditional folk dance known as horon with the local bagpipe tulum, herding their goats and extracting honey from the hives altogether.

“We had expressed our opposition before. Now we are happy that we won the case. We want keep the nature in its present state,” said villager Fatma Demirci.

“We have lived in it and we have struggled for our grandchildren to live in it,” she added.

Another villager, Kasım Demirci, hailed the unity of the locals in the area around Rize’s Çamlıhemşin district.

“We have reached this point with the support and unity of the citizens along with some 30 village chiefs in the three districts and about 10 associations. We hope that no killing of nature takes place neither here nor anywhere across Turkey,” he said.

Tens of plateaus in Turkey’s eastern Black Sea region offer hidden gems to domestic and foreign tourists, creating influx to the formerly off the beaten tracks. However, construction works for touristic facilities, hydroelectric power plants and mines often pit locals and companies against each other.

The Rize Municipality and the Turkish Environment and Urbanization Ministry recently started demolishing illegal structures on the Fırtına Valley and in other areas of Rize recently.