Istanbul’s Belgrade Forest being degraded

Istanbul’s Belgrade Forest being degraded

Jose Bove, the French farm workers’ union leader, recently said the following: “As far as world leaders are concerned, the entire planet should submit to market laws. Our struggle is based on resistance to this development. Health, education, culture, food - these are all issues that are close to everyone’s heart. Today they are in danger of becoming commodities. Waves of opposition to this commodification can be felt in all corners of the world. There are two different views of society. One where the market with its own rules, runs everything, and where all human activity takes place with capital as the bottom line; the other view is one where people and their political institutions, not to mention issues such as the environment and culture, are at the forefront of people’s concerns.” 

Unfortunately, like most other places in the world, we in Turkey also live solely according to the laws of money.  And we make nature pay the biggest price for this. In fact, the price paid by nature is a price that humans pay by being deprived of it. But we do not notice this.

Houses, roads, bridges and railroads are built for the human. Of course, in this era quality and fast transportation is important. But while all of these are defined as needs; it makes no sense to not regard nature as a need. 

While land is being sacrificed to build roads, bridges and houses, and to extract resources from the ground, they are all regarded as using national resources appropriately for the interests of the country. It is argued that there is superior public benefit in this. 

It is impossible to understand how eroding nature serves the best interests of the country and the public. Before anything else, humans need nature - especially people who live in cities that have been turned into concrete graves. 

Nobody likes those who say “We told you so,” but sorry to say: We told you so. 

We said that if the third bridge was built, and if the third airport project was carried out, then Istanbul’s northern forests would slowly disappear. We said that building needless roads was an invitation to “come and settle here.” The issue was not the giant projects themselves, but rather the concrete projects that would destroy the last remaining forests of Istanbul that would cluster next to and around the connection roads and their surroundings. 

All the new bridges and approach roads built in Istanbul until today have swelled the city and made it more crowded. The same will only keep happening; one does not need to be Einstein to see this. 

Just last week we learned that dozens of trees in the Belgrade Forest have been marked. While the civil society group, the North Forests Defense Platform, said the marking was done for the light railway line between the Golden Horn and Kemerburgaz, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality stated that “the trees on the route of the rail system can be transported to a more suitable place.”  

A thousand years ago the Belgrade Forest was 10,000 hectares. Now it is 5,000 hectares and it is constantly shrinking. At the Fatih Forest, which can be regarded as its border, a housing project with 109 villas is on hold. And now a railroad is said to be planned to be built through the Belgrade Forest. 

Today there will be a railroad. Tomorrow there will be residential areas. The next day there will be connection roads. Then very soon there will be no place called the Belgrade Forest. 

I noticed this when I saw the logs of the trees cut down for the third bridge in the depths of the forest, extending for kilometers. It was like watching a mass murder. I almost heard the silent cries of the trees that survived while their ecosystems were destroyed. They may have known that their turn would also come.
There are days when 800,000 people visit the Belgrade Forest. It is one of the few places left where a person in Istanbul can go to get fresh air; no doubt it is the most beautiful one. 

Unfortunately, the Belgrade Forest will soon be deforested; its water sources will become more polluted, mass tree deaths will occur. Millions of urban dwellers will be driven to desperately take refuge in the ornamental flowers at traffic islands.  

Note this warning somewhere. One day you will remember that we told you so…