Ruling AKP-opposition CHP clash over Istanbul’s Golden Horn

Istanbul’s Gold Horn, a major urban waterway and the main inlet of the Bosporus, has become the latest focal of the rift between Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

The AKP has accused the main opposition party,  of oversight in what it has called increasing pollution in the waters of the Golden Horn, a charge the CHP, which has run the city for the past year, denies.

The AKP government on Saturday said it is ready to intervene in what it called the murky waters of the estuary after CHP officials brushed off the accusation, citing an increase in algae as the reason for the change in the water body’s appearance, Diken news site reported.

The AKP mayor of the Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district blasted the CHP, saying the Gold Horn had over the course of a year turned into “a sea of mud.’’

“Just 10 months ago, on Sept. 22, 2019, we had swum across the Gold Horn alongside professional athletes. The Golden Horn, which was piercing blue that day, has since lost any trace of blue,’’ AKP’s Haydar Ali Yıldız said on Twitter on Friday as he shared what he claimed was a before and after picture of the waterway.

Yapraklar bile beni alkışlıyor diyerek böbürlenenler biraz olsun UTANIRLAR MI?

22 Eylül 2019 tarihinde yani yaklaşık 10 ay önce Haliç’te profesyonel sporcular ile yüzmüştük.

O gün pırıl pırıl ve masmavi olan Haliç, bugün bir çamur deryasına dönmüş ve mavilikten eser kalmamış.

— HAYDAR ALİ YILDIZ 🟢🇹🇷 (@haydaraliyildiz) June 12, 2020

CHP’s Ekrem İmamoğlu became the mayor of Istanbul following a controversial vote in March of last year, ending 25 years of AKP rule in the city of 17 million. The AKP contested the polls and a revote, producing the same result, was held in June.

Earlier on Saturday, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality issued a statement on the matter attributing the change in the Golden Horn waters to an explosion of phytoplankton, more commonly known as algae.

“The Golden Horn will transform into its former state in 2-3 weeks,’’ the CHP said.  

Long time residents of Istanbul know that the unbecoming state of the Golden Horn is a not a new issue.

Dotted by five-star hotels, universities and political parties’ provincial headquarters, the appearance of the waterway located at the heart of the metropolis has been a decades-long problem.

For Istanbulites, the Golden Horn first became synonymous with Bedrettin Dalan, who served as then ruling Motherland Party’s (ANAP) mayor of the city between1984-1989. Dalan was he first mayor to take on the task of cleaning of the waterway, vowing to turn into crystal blue colour.

President Erdoğan, whose political career began as mayor of Istanbul, a seat he held between 1994-1998, also exerted a great deal of effort to clean the Golden Horn.

Erdoğan oversaw the removal of thousands of tonnes of mud from the waterway, according to opposition Sözcü columnist Ugür Dündar.

Erdoğan’s efforts for the Golden Horn were followed by AKP mayor Kadir Topbaş, who served the city between 2004-2017.

A total of $500 million alone was spent on cleaning the inlet between the 80s until 2003, according to Milliyet newspaper.

The waterway is continually threatened by mud islets. A number of streams in the region, namely from the districts of Kagıthane and Alibeyköy continue to carry 60,000 tonnes of mud to the inlet each year, according to Dündar.

Former Turkish minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Veysel Eroğlu, has also chimed in on the debate, saying the Golden Horn, which had been “handed over in spotless shape,’’ had turned “pitch-black'' under the CHP.

Turkish Environment and Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum on Saturday said that the ministry would not abandon the Golden Horn to its “own fate.’’

“The appearance of Haliç breaks our hearts,’’ Yeni Şafak newspaper quoted Kurum as saying.