Istanbul loses another forest

As the real estate market has dramatically increased in the Sariyer district of Istanbul, due to construction of a third bridge across the Bosporus, a state-owned forest surrounding the ZekeriyakandOy neighborhood was reportedly scheduled for rent and sale in public tenders.
The move recalls previous actions taken by ruling party, perceived to demonstrate a disregard for natural areas. The Meydan daily reported on Tuesday that the forestland, part of which was once owned by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), was scheduled for tender on Monday, along with 17 abandoned buildings. The report mentioned that the 31,000 square-meter area would be zoned for construction in the name of restoring the abandoned buildings.
The report added that the tenders have been canceled and”for now,and” due to strong reaction from opposition parties and the Turkish media, ahead of the general election on June 7. A private university administered by a foundation that is allegedly affiliated with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) was reportedly the leading party in the tender. Abdandulkadir Bilge, the chairman of a nongovernmental organization committed to environmental protection, shared his desire for the forest to be protected as a sanctuary by razing the buildings. Head of the Istanbul Environmental Council (iandcK) Zafer Murat andcetintai drew attention to the fact that thousands of houses are already being built on a separate area of the ZekeriyakandOy forest. Mentioning that he was not shocked by the governmentand’s plans for the tender, andcetintai explained that the bid for the construction of 1,200 houses has been granted by the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKi).
h2 The ruling partyand’s disregard for natural areash2 The AK Party government has often been criticized for opening many natural sites in Istanbul to construction. The Cumhuriyet daily reported on Monday that the Kalyon Real Estate investment trust, allegedly affiliated with AK Party leadership, has been given permission to construct a university in an area within the Beykoz Forest of Istanbul.
A previous construction proposal was rejected by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality City Council on the grounds that the area was a second-degree protected site. Permission was later given to the trust after the areaand’s protected status was removed, an act that was publicly criticized and caused a city council member to imply that this was just another example of favoritism shown to those loyal to the ruling party. Similarly, Istanbuland’s two famous gardens, Emirgan Grove and Veysi Pasha Grove, were also labeled as protected natural sites. However, it was reported in April that a green area next to Emirgan Grove was slated to be sold in a public tender, and that Veysi Pasha Grove is to be awarded to a foundation of which President Recep Tayyip Erdoganand’s son is an executive board member, moves that have also sparked public outcry. All of this recalls the AK Party governmentand’s infamous plans to build a shopping mall on the site of the centrally located Gezi Park in Istanbul, inciting protests in a large number of provinces in the summer of 2013.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman