Istanbul aims to build its third airport on nearly a square kilometer of previously pristine forest in the northern, European part of the city, on Lake Terkos near the Black Sea. With six runways and an annual capacity of 150 million passengers, Transport Minister Binali Yildirim told Turkish newspaper Zaman “it will be the largest airport in the world.”
Capable of surpassing passenger throughput at London’s Heathrow and the trio of airports in the United Arab Emirates, this new facility will be so large it’ll be visible from space.
An environmental impact report (ÇED) prepared by the Ministry of Environment assessed probable environmental effects from project construction. It predicts that, if the airport is built as planned, more than half a million trees spanning ten species will be chopped.
The project site is 80 percent forested, dense growth that acts as a natural carbon sink for populous Istanbul. Airport development, with associated deforestation, will interrupt carbon’s natural cycling and considerably increase regional air pollution.
Carbon cycling is the natural transfer of carbon between the biosphere and earth’s atmosphere, Trees and plants are the primary transfer agents.
Forests pull CO2 out of the atmosphere as part of photosynthesis. A series of biochemical reactions convert the CO2 into glucose, which fuels plant cell function, growing biomass. Carbon in plantlife is conventionally released back to the atmosphere through respiration, burning, and biomass decay.
Large-scale deforestation eliminates natural carbon storage, releases unnatural amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, and reduces forward capacity to suck CO2 from the air. All serve to accelerate anthropogenic climate change.
The ÇED, recently released on the ministry’s website, states that airport construction will cause irreversible damage to the area’s forest and water ecosystems. “The area where the third airport is planned to be built is 7,650 hectares, and 6,172 hectares of this field consists of forested area, 1,180 hectares are used for mining, 660 hectares constitute a lake, 236 hectares are used for pasture and 60 hectares are used for agricultural activities. There are 2,513,341 trees in the area…maritime pine, stone pine, Calabrian pine, black pine, oak, hornbeam, narrow-leafed ash, linden, Norway maple and cedar.”
The report states that there are 70 animal species living in the forest, and warns that the proposed development will destroy the area’s vegetation and natural features. Increased vehicle traffic and urbanization following airport construction will exacerbate air pollution and habitat loss.
Istanbul has two international airports: Ataturk on the European side (37 million annual passengers) and Sabiha Gokcen on the Asiatic (13 million annual passengers). The third airport is expected to create 100,000 new jobs in this city of 15 million people.
Image of felled trees from Shutterstock