What really matters (Destruction of Istanbul’s forests)

What really matters

Aerial images showing the level of destruction of İstanbul’s northern forests because of the construction of the third bridge. (Photo: Today’s Zaman, Kürşat Bayhan)

Turkey is going through interesting times. Unfortunately, they are costing us greatly.

The Turkish government, as everyone knows, has faced serious graft allegations, most of which appear to be true, judging by the voice recordings and photos leaked online by Twitter users. Tension has been high in the country since the Gezi Protests, but the polarization of the nation seems to have gotten worse recently.

As a result, the municipal elections this Sunday are now being referred to as a “war of independence,” and nobody is talking about what really matters for livable and sustainable cities. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) is notorious for its deforestation policies as well as aggressive dam-building, and for taking no special measures to mitigate the effects of climate change. In fact, the other day I came across an İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) banner touting “the pleasure of uninterrupted water flow,” a slogan used initially by Forestry and Water Affairs Minister Veysel Eroğlu to announce the building of a dam on the Melen River earlier this March. Rainfall this year was 45 percent lower than the year before in Turkey, and the flow of the Melen has slowed by 50 percent. In other words, there is no water to trap in dam reservoirs. Turkey is going through its driest period of the past half-century. Yet Eroğlu said he will shave his moustache if İstanbul faces water shortages. As Recep Tayyip Erdoğan et al. sacrifice the last remaining trees and wetlands of the country to provide lucrative tenders to friends and family and fail to even think of developing policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions and conserve water resources, they are stealing our future. And then they laugh about it. I don’t know what else to make of the moustache comment.

Yet a water crisis is no laughing matter. March 22 World Water Day, and the Bursa Water Platform made a statement to mark the day in which they accused the government of commercializing the country’s limited water resources, leaving the entire population’s water needs in the hands of a few elite groups.

According to the platform’s statement, Turkey can be considered a water-poor country, given its population of 76.6 million and consumable water potential of 112 billion cubic meters (meaning that the annual usable water potential per capita is 1,460 cubic meters.) The platform called on the people to fight the government’s relentless policies of deforestation and draining wetlands to make room for more construction projects that will inevitably cause a water crisis.

Yet the AKP still has many supporters and will likely garner a large portion of the vote in this weekend’s municipal elections, which we are all treating as general elections for all intents and purposes given the political situation of the country.

At the end of the day, Turkey’s lack of a strong green opposition is responsible for the failure to explain to the people that will vote for the AKP that although today they might be benefiting financially from the construction juggernaut riding roughshod over the last remaining forests and national parks, in the long run, they are stealing the future of their children, especially if they have taken the prime minister’s advice to have at least three.


This post originally appeared with the title “What really matters” as a TZ Blog Post. It was published at http://www.todayszaman.com/blog/e-baris-altintas/what-really-matters_342879.html