Erdoğan’s mega-projects threaten Istanbul’s environment – Asia Times

The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is pushing for a number of “mega-projects” in the metropolis of Istanbul, despite resistance from residents and environmentalists who are looking to save the city’s few remaining green spots, Asia Times said on Monday.

The three projects – the new Istanbul Airport, the third bridge across the Bosphorus and the Istanbul Canal – have been or will be constructed in Istanbul, where parks, gardens or any green space account for a mere 2 percent of the megacity’s 5,000 square-kilometre land, Asia Times said. 

The Istanbul Airport, which has a price tag of $11 billion, has come under criticism for being an unnecessary endeavour that has strained Turkey’s economy while severely damaging the environment. More than 2.5 million trees were removed for construction of the airport.

Similarly, the third bridge spanning Istanbul’s Bosphorus Straits and the planned Istanbul Canal, a multi-billion-dollar bid to build an artificial waterway through Istanbul province, are wreaking havoc on the city, Asia Times said. 

Yet Erdoğan insists that Turkey is at the forefront of environmental consciousness, it said. The publication pointed to a speech delivered by Erdoğan at the U.N. Climate Action Summit in 2019, where he claimed Turkey was one of the few countries increasing its forested areas, having planted over 4.5 billion trees during his presidency since 2018.

However, Turkey is experiencing deforestation at a rate that the Turkish union of agriculture and forestry workers labelled as “a massacre”, Asia Times said.

Ninety percent of the 11 million trees planted as part of the government’s “Breath for the Future” campaign in November have died, according to the union. The planting effort was conducted in only three hours.

Moreover, Turkey is the only country in the Group of Twenty, a group of finance ministers and central bank governors representing the world's largest economies, not to have signed the Paris Agreement on climate change, even though two dozen Turkish cities, including Ankara, Izmir, Bursa and several districts of Istanbul, support it, Asia Times said.