The earthquake reality in the parliamentary report

The earthquake reality in the parliamentary report

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared that even at the risk of “losing power,” they would fight “illegal housing.” “On the issue of illegal houses and slums in our cities, if necessary, full authority will be given to the ministry and we will demolish these types of buildings,” he said.

This declaration from a ruling party won 50 percent of the vote in the last election and in a country situated in an earthquake zone is indeed significant; but when the building stock in cities is considered, the difficulty of making this happen is obvious. Especially mega cities such as Istanbul, İzmir and Ankara will make this target tougher. In fact, they are likely to make it impossible.

Parliament has prepared reports in the past. In 1997, 2000 and 2010, the Parliamentary Earthquake Research Commissions released three important reports. What was needed to be done, according to these reports, was not done to a large extent – we understood as much with last week’s Van temblor.

Illegal housing and the measures to be against such problems were present in these three reports. One year has passed since the last report, but it is not possible to say a serious step has been taken except for Erdoğan’s declaration of “We will knock down illegal buildings.”

Moreover, there are rumors afoot that there could be an “amnesty.” The Turkish Union of Engineers’ and Architects’ Chambers (TMMOB) claims that there were amendments in decree number 648 that went into effect on Aug. 17, 2011, and in the Building Control Law to the effect that “those municipalities with populations under 5,000 were excluded from the building control system.”

In the parliamentary report, there are alarming findings, especially in Istanbul. Under the “Building Reinforcement” chapter of the report, illegal buildings in Istanbul are mentioned and this grave finding is included: “In Istanbul, there is a widespread unlicensed illegal building stock, the technical production characteristics of which are not known,” it said, adding that it was believed that these types of buildings, which are said to account for around 70 percent of the buildings in Istanbul, could not be strengthened either technically or legally.

In the report, there is also the emphasis on the mistake of granting “amnesties” to the illegal buildings mentioned. The difficulty of solving the illegal housing problem through demolition without granting “amnesties” and without “strengthening” is underlined in the report.

Obviously, the Van earthquake has been the limit. It has forced a solution from the government. Difficult but not impossible. From whispers that have reached me, I understand that the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry has rolled up its sleeves. Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, who was the former head of Housing Development Administration (TOKİ), has started preparing for a serious change in legislation in the fight against illegal housing.

Let us hope the lessons learned from Van’s rubble will contribute to the construction of earthquake-resilient buildings.

CHP’s ‘sincerity’ concern in the constitution

Atilla Kart, Süheyl Batum and Rıza Türmen, members of the Constitution Conciliation Commission from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), have briefed the CHP Central Decision Board (MYK) about the committee’s ongoing work. The “democracy package” that caused a stir in the commission was also debated. Justice and Development Party (AKP) members had opposed the package and Kart had defined this as “a crisis of confidence.” Kılıçdaroğlu and members of the MYK decided to continue supporting the package. This opposition from the AKP was interpreted in the MYK as “The AKP, by turning down the package, has indicated from the first day that it is not sincere on the new constitution.” Kılıçdaroğlu has demanded that this be brought up at every opportunity and said, “The AKP is in search of other things whereas the CHP is sincerely demanding a free and democratic charter.” My impression is that in the Constitution Conciliation Commission expected to meet today, the “democracy package” crisis will continue. The CHP will not leave the table but will pressure the AKP considerably.

Commission shift for deputy under arrest

The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) has nominated Şırnak deputy Selma Irmak, who is imprisoned under arrest, as a member of the Equal Opportunities Commission in an attempt to point out the deputy’s predicament. The Parliamentary Speaker’s Office, however, has rejected the move, but the BDP insists on appointing Irmak and has not nominated anyone else, only assigning another female deputy to observe the commission on behalf of the jailed deputy. BDP Istanbul deputy Sebahat Tuncel participated in the first activity of the commission last week on behalf of Irmak while party colleagues will take turns attending future meetings. The act has been dubbed a “commission shift for an arrested deputy.” All BDP deputies will take shifts at the committee until Irmak is released.