Protesters plant trees where Ankara municipality cut them down on ODTÜ land

Protesters plant trees where Ankara municipality cut them down on ODTÜ land

ANKARA - Hürriyet
Protesters plant trees where Ankara municipality cut them down on ODTÜ land

Demonstrators planted dozens of trees under the rain at ODTÜ land on Oct. 19, before dispersing peacefully. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

A group of demonstrators gathered on Oct. 19 near the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) to protest the night-time construction raid through planting new trees where they had been cut down by Ankara Metropolitan Municipality. 
With scarce police presence this time and digging tools in their hands, demonstrators planted dozens of trees under the rain in a challenge to the municipality’s attitude.
They then peacefully dispersed after their demonstration.
Earlier, the rector of university expressed his fury at Ankara Metropolitan Municipality for entering the school’s campus at night without permission to clear-cut trees as part of a controversial road construction project in the capital.
“ODTÜ has given its permission for the road project. But we don’t approve the midnight raid nor consider it a good-willed approach. What’s been done is entirely illegal,” Ahmet Acar said, emphasizing that the municipality workers had entered ODTÜ land without permission.
“We will bring the matter to justice. It is impossible to determine during works at night if the trees cut down will be transported [to be replanted] somewhere else,” Acar said.

A written statement released by the university rector on Oct. 19 said the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry had made some changes to the plan suggested by ODTÜ.

The much-criticized project threatens to destroy 3,000 trees in ODTÜ’s leafy campus; only 600 of the trees can be replanted. The project envisages the construction of two roads on ODTÜ land. One of the roads, the smaller one, will still be constructed as planned, while the second will be replaced by a tunnel to minimize environmental damage, as suggested by the university.

ODTÜ said as the plans approved by the ministry were not the ones they suggested, all institutions, including Ankara Municipality were informed that taking any action would be illegal until the conflict is resolved.

The university accused the municipality of acting against the law with the construction work.

After the release of the university’s statement ministry authorities told Anadolu Agency yesterday that any complaints regarding the plans would be considered and that any revision could be made.

Officials said the university management misinterpreted an expression used in the plans and thought the planned structure would be a cut-and-cover tunnel, rather a regular tunnel to go underground.

They also expressed their willingness to clear the air and soothe any concerns regarding the plan.   


Road construction teams and heavy machinery
entered the ODTÜ campus at around 10 p.m. on
the night of Oct. 18. DAILY NEWS photo,
Selahattin SÖNMEZ

The environmental impact of the project triggered strong reactions among students and activists who have staged a number of demonstrations to protest the decision. The police’s repeated crackdowns on protests with water cannon and tear gas stirred protests in solidarity across the country throughout the month of September. A 22-year-old, Ahmet Atakan, died in the southern province of Hatay during one such protest.
Despite the contentious nature of the project, road construction teams and heavy machinery entered the ODTÜ campus at around 10 p.m. on the night of Oct. 18, the last day of the Feast of Sacrifice, as the campus was mostly empty of students. 
Some trees were cut down during the construction work as a large number of police officers escorted the workers.
Police resorted to tear gas against a group of protesters who gathered after calls via social media.
ODTÜ’s rector had adopted a conciliatory tone during the events, repeatedly calling on both parties to solve the issue with an agreement. 

'They made me a surprise,' mayor says

Meanwhile, Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek also said the start of the construction had taken him by surprise. “Our friends made me a surprise last night. They cleared ODTÜ’s road in just one night. May it bring good fortune for our Ankara,” Gökçek said via Twitter.