City is cutting down forests and bulldozing green spaces in the name of development, say activists
Istanbul’s bid to become European Green Capital of 2017 has been met with ridicule from activists and opposition politicians.
The application comes at a time when the city’s authorities are clamping down on environmental protests while forging ahead with projects that threaten Istanbul’s few green spaces.
“It’s a joke,” said Oğuz Kaan Salici, the Istanbul chairman of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
“Istanbul is not a green city. Applying for Green Capital is a politician’s joke.”
The city’s rapid development has put its remaining green areas at risk. Around Istanbul, thousands of acres of forest are to be cut down to make way for gargantuan projects, including a third airport, a third Bosphorus bridge, and a canal to run parallel to the Bosphorus.
Closer to the city’s core, green spaces are also falling prey to redevelopment plans, which have polarised public opinion. Protests against the construction of a shopping centre at the site of Gezi Park, a small green area at the heart of the city, exploded into nationwide demonstrations last year.
Over the past two weeks, residents of Üsküdar, a district on the city’s Asian side, have taken to the streets to protest against the construction of a mosque next to an environmentally protected grove.
Elein Akdoğan, an activist who joined the protest, burst into laughter when she heard of Istanbul’s application for Green Capital.
“Maybe they confused it with some other green thing?” she said. “They’re trying to turn everything into profit.”
Activists claim that the project is the first step to removing the protected status of Validebağ Grove, home to around 7,000 trees and several historic buildings.