Toward the last tree

Toward the last tree

Indian chief Seattle knew about the threat years ago; his words are still valid everywhere in the world, a full example of environmental conscience:

“When the last tree has been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.”

The other day, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated the same sentence and added, “We should absolutely prevent this.” Last week, Erdoğan gave environmental messages one after the other: “If the furniture in our home has destroyed the rainforests, then we need to question this and generate solutions.”

Next, he is against tall buildings in megacities. That’s good, but it doesn’t mesh with the truth of what the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) local governments practice.

Starting from Istanbul, the latest examples are the Belgrade Forests, the Bosphorus hills, Ali Sami Yen Stadium, Maslak Road, the 40 kilometers of the TEM highway and Levent.

In Istanbul, a new skyscraper is added to the already existing ones every day. There is no place left to breathe in Istanbul. The air is polluted, greenery is disappearing. Snow in Istanbul is becoming rare and rain has become mud. Unearned income is skyrocketing.

Three years ago, at the heart of the city, the Ayamama Creek overflew its banks and 30 people died. Erdoğan has said this was “the revenge of the creeks” at the scene of the disaster, adding that construction should not be allowed along river banks. Go and see now what is around Ayamama Creek, how many buildings have been erected, as well as how many malls and hotels. The reason is money, profit and easy income. Development plans in various parts of Istanbul are changing one after the other. Green areas are becoming concrete; the height of buildings is increasing.
Law on environmental protection

While Erdoğan is sermonizing about the environment, there is a new bill on protecting the environment at Parliament. This bill, which will open national parks, natural protection areas, coasts and archeological sites to development, is being protested everywhere in Turkey on a daily basis.

When the AKP came to power, they reduced crimes against nature, including hunting, to the level of misdemeanor. Criminals either receive no punishment or funny punishments. For example, weapons of illegal hunters are no longer seized.

Even the national parks are being opened to mining; the Kazdağları and Küre Mountains are being destroyed.
“Not enough but yes;” up next is an amendment in environmental impact assessment (EIA).

The regulation is changing, the condition of demanding the EIA report for investments planned before a certain date is being lifted. Also, the autonomy of the Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Boards is ending.

Zoning permits for coasts and forests are given directly from Ankara. On the Aegean coast, go down from Ayvalık, when you reach Bodrum, all the coasts and forests are alive and well.

Protests are being organized against hotels, housing complexes and private piers built on shores. Because of this, buildings are locked up and sealed, only to be opened for construction three days later.

Actually, it is good reading, the “last tree, the last animal.”

Yalçın Doğan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published April 11. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.