Top administrative court suspends enviromental approval regulations

Top administrative court suspends enviromental approval regulations

Top administrative court suspends enviromental approval regulations

The construction of Istanbul’s third bridge has been one of the projects that has attracted objections due to fears over the vast destruction that is wrought on forests. AA Photo

Turkey’s top administrative court has stopped the execution of some disputed articles of the new Environmental Impact Assessment (ÇED) regulation, which has been blasted for reducing state control over the process needed to obtain project approval.

The Council of State, the highest court to oversee administrative decisions, has given a stay of execution for several articles of the new ÇED regulation, which was changed in October last year, said one of the complainants in case, the Chamber of Environment Engineers (ÇMO).

In the suit filed jointly filed by the ÇMO and the Ecology Collective Association (EKD), the court suspended the provisions that had drawn huge criticism, particularly for “narrowing the extent of the ÇEDs and transferring the state’s auditing authority to private companies.”

The articles limiting the public and locals’ involvement in the ÇED process and leaving future capacity increases out of the scope of environmental approvals have also been halted by the court.

The new regulation had removed the monitoring of construction processes from the scope of the ÇED, weakening the authority of public bodies to oversee the projects.

Another article that paved the way for contractor companies to audit their own environmental assessment reports also raised eyebrows, stirring fears that it could be abused.

“The transfer of auditing power to private companies from public agencies is nothing but the creation of an environment of lack of inspection,” the ÇMO said in its statement. “Hence, the Council of State also indicated this point in its decision.”

At the beginning of the month, the Constitutional Court halted another legal amendment that exempted companies from preparing a ÇED report on dozens of gigantic projects that have drawn controversy for their potential to damage nature.

Activists had organized numerous campaigns to halt both pieces of legislation last year, arguing that the amendment on the Environment Law violated several international conventions.

“The Environment and Urban Planning Ministry should cease introducing these regulations that keep being annulled every time and work on a new regulation considering public good in the light of science,” the ÇMO said.

The government’s development policies that prioritizes construction of energy and infrastructure porjects in defiance of the damage they would create on the nature and the habitat have been prompting strong opposition from public.

In addition to giant projects, like third Istanbul bridge, third Istanbul airport and Akkuyu nuclear power plant, scores of HES projects are planned on streams all across the Black Sea region, particularly in the eastern provinces despite a sound popular opposition.

Many projects are decried for being carried on despite insufficient ÇED reports and experts pointing out their shortcomings.

A mere 32 out of 3,309 applications for a positive environmental impact assessment reports (ÇED) have been rejected since 1993, according to the figures by the Environment Ministry figures.