On Sunday, Turkey’s Green and Future Left parties organized small but loud protests in six cities around Turkey to oppose the country’s new Protection of Nature and Biological Diversity Law. The draft law, currently on the agenda of the Turkish Parliament, will allow formerly protected natural areas to be opened for construction, according to Turkish environmentalists, opposition politicians, and environmental engineers who have examined the bill.
The law allows formerly protected land to be developed when it serves the “great public welfare” of Turkey, according to a passage from the law quoted in Turkish paper Hürriyet Daily News: “If strategic areas seen important for great public welfare are inside the areas that should necessitate protection, then their management under certain conditions should be enabled.”
“Great public welfare” is too vague a term, according to Turkey’s Chamber of Environmental Engineers, and could allow protected habitats to be spoiled merely to boost tourism or industry.
In addition to the six rallies organized around the country on Sunday, the Turkish public have been making their voice heard online. More than 100 Turkish environmental groups have thrown their support behind the initiative to redraft the bill through a more transparent, participatory process, and a Change.org petition calling for the current bill to be withdrawn from parliament has so far received nearly 40,000 signatures
Opponents of the bill have raised other concerns, according to the HDN.
First, the bill will make Turkey’s ministries responsible for overseeing protected natural areas. The administration has a very checkered record on cases of clashing environmental and business interests, most recently demonstrated by the government’s backing of the Ilısu Dam project, on which construction has continued despite a January order from Turkey’s highest administrative court to halt until environment impact assessments have been conducted.
Second, locals will no longer have a part in helping maintain protected natural areas near their homes. Finally, the bill doesn’t include the term “national park”, suggesting that the entire concept might be expunged from Turkey’s law on the environment.
A deputy of Turkey’s largest opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), told the HDN that his party was willing to rewrite the law after consulting with environmental NGOs and academics.
The deputy, Mustafa Serdar Soydan, said the CHP would seek support from European Union groups if they cannot change the course of the bill in Turkish Parliament.
“Natural, protected areas form around 4 percent of [Turkish land] while this rate is 14 percent in the European Union. Instead of increasing this [rate], this draft law is leaving the protection job to the ministries, which will spoil these areas,” Soydan told the paper.
Read more about conservation in Turkey:
Life Returns to Gulf – Once a Sewer on Turkey’s Aegean Coast
Istanbul’s Natural Oases: the Atatürk Arboretum and Belgrade Forest
Hydroelectric Dam Threatens “Ecological Massacre” in Turkey
Polluting Paradise Documentary Follows Turkish Village’s Battle Against Invading Garbage
Image via Yeşil Gazete