‘New Turkey’ destined to be a concrete one

‘New Turkey’ destined to be a concrete one

It seems like the “new Turkey” under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), who know no limits when it comes to construction, is determined to leave no green areas untouched.

In just the last 10 days, the government prepared draft bills that will allow construction on olive groves, pastures and wetlands.

One draft, currently being debated in a parliamentary commission, permits private investors to build energy facilities, including plants that run on fossil fuels, military defense facilities and any form of construction in centuries-old olive groves.  

Another bill, recently submitted to Parliament, aims to enable the authorities to open pastures to construction by extending existing urban renewal areas or defining new urban development plans.

Meanwhile, the Forestry Ministry has moved to privatize the salt marshes at the natural reserve of the Gediz Delta, one of the most important sites for the breeding of flamingoes, while the minister claimed the cession of the salt marshes facilities to private investors would not negatively affect the environment.

Add to these the continuing construction of the third bridge over the Bosphorus and its adjacent rods, which go through the heart of the metropolis’ only remaining forest lands, and the third airport, two major projects Erdoğan depicts as his “legacy.”

The third airport is being built on a 76.5-million-squaremeter zone in the north of Istanbul, and 61.7-million-squaremeters of this area is forested land, according to official data. The contractors, who won the 22 billion euro tender to build an airport with an annual capacity of 150 million passengers, are involved in a bribery case targeting four ex-ministers. But that did not stop the government from making a huge gesture to the firms by lowering the desired elevation of the airport. The changes in the original plan are expected to save billions of euros to the contractors.

The workplace security of the construction sites is also a source of great concern. Since the profit-minded main contractors prefer to work with the cheapest sub-contractors, ignoring all measures for security, the deaths of workers at construction sites has unfortunately become a routine story.

The latest victim was a bulldozer operator, who was killed yesterday when his vehicle fell into a pond at a worksite in Istanbul, the soil of which is being used in the construction of the third airport.

In spite of all efforts to open every piece of available land to construction, Erdoğan and the AKP continue to say they are the “biggest environmentalists” this country has ever seen. Especially since the Gezi protests in June 2013, which erupted to prevent the construction of a shopping mall in Gezi Park, Erdoğan often criticized the environmentalists, which he claimed had “other motives.”

“If you look at how many trees we have planted during our rule, we have planted 3 billion trees and saplings,” the prime minister said last month in a speech in Vienna. “Know this, we are an environmentalist government,” he added.

Yes, you are Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for keeping the trees on the median strips of the highways.

Who needs forests and groves when we can see a couple of trees driving at 100 kilometers an hour?