Turkish court requests environmental report for five-star hotel near ancient coastal city

Turkish court requests environmental report for five-star hotel near ancient coastal city

Turkish court requests environmental report for five-star hotel near ancient coastal city

Local activists during a rally against the hotel project near Phaselis' beach. DHA Photo

A Turkish administrative court has requested an environment impact assessment report (ÇED) for the construction of a five-star hotel near the ancient city of Phaselis along the Mediterranean coast, invalidating a previous decision by the Environment Ministry to exempt the project from the mandatory assessment process.

The reports are key to determining the potential damage that a project could cause to its surroundings, particularly in protected natural areas or archaeological sites such as Phaselis, which is one of Turkey’s most important and well-preserved ancient cities located next to an untouched beach.

Phaselis is also located within the National Park of Beydağları Olympos and aims to enter UNESCO’s world heritage list.

The hotel, named the “Dream of Phaselis” and slated to have 280 rooms, would have been built on the limits of the national park, while a significant part of the facility would be inside the first-degree archaeological site, where no construction is permitted under current legislation. The owner of the project is Rixos, a hotel chain known for its closeness to the government and which recently won a contentious tender for the Golden Horn port in Istanbul.

But the ministry’s decision to dismiss the environmental assessment process despite legal constraints had outraged environmental activists and lawyers alike. During the trial process, archaeological inspections carried out by Antalya’s Akdeniz University showed that there were many archaeological remains under the area were the hotel is planned to be built.

“The contribution of an ancient city protected under international treaties such as Phaselis to tourism with new archaeological excavations would be much more important than erecting a concrete building with 280 rooms,” the local Phaselis Initiative group said, slamming the authorities for changing the boundaries of the national park in order to build the hotel.

“The area needed for the project has been placed outside the boundaries of the park, in other words, the construction plans have been changed and re-drawn to suit the project. Instead of designing the project according to the rules of the national park legislation, the national park’s limits were determined according to the project,” the statement said.

“But as the court ruling says no such project can be done without an environmental report,” it added.

Construction had been suspended in November after a court’s stay of execution order. A separate lawsuit is also ongoing to scrap the project.

Just like the İztuzu beach further west, Phaselis has become a symbolic battle at a time when hotel investments along Turkey’s western coasts have dramatically increased. Activists have not only criticized the damage to natural areas, but also slammed the privatization of beaches and coastal areas that had previously been open to the public for years.