Turkey accelerates pace of environmentally damaging projects during COVID-19 - specialist

Turkey’s government is using the COVID-19 pandemic to step up the pace of environmentally damaging construction and mining projects, said Ahmet Soysal, an environmental health specialist.   

“The government saw the pandemic as an opportunity to scale up its environmentally controversial projects,” Soysal said at an online press event organised by the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) to mark World Environment Day on June 5.

The projects included Canal Istanbul, a stone quarry in the northern Rize province, mines in the northwestern province of Artvin and in Mount Ida, tourism development in Izmir, new coal-fired thermal power plants, highways and the importing of plastic waste, Soysal said.

“In our country, those who see the environment as a cheap source of raw materials and plunder it, want to continue to do so, faster and more ruthlessly than before by taking the advantage of the extraordinary conditions of this pandemic period,” he said.

Turkey’s government has sought to ban and quash public protests during the COVID-19 outbreak, citing social distancing rules. But it has let a few gatherings go ahead, including demonstrations outside Israeli diplomatic missions last month against the bombing of Hamas targets in Gaza.

It is now more important than ever to resist the projects on a scientific, legal and social level, despite all the difficulties associated with that, Soysal said.