As the streets of Turkish cities host horrific scenes of police brutality against unarmed civilians, in the wake of peaceful protests against destruction of one of the last green areas in central Istanbul, the Turkish Parliament is preparing to rush through a vote on a policy that will allow much more widespread destruction of nature.
The Habitats and Biodiversity Bill is based on the European Union Habitats and Wild Birds Directives, but with two vital differences.
In EU member states the criterion of ‘over-riding public interest’ for allowing developments in conservation areas is applied through long-established systems of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), stakeholder engagement and public consultation. But the definition of ‘overriding public interest’ is vague in the Turkish bill, there is no system of consultation in the country, and EIAs, if they are carried out at all, are often conducted long after a development project starts.
Secondly, for protected land, the EU also requires that there be ‘No Alternatives’ for siting the development. The draft bill in the Turkish Parliament, by contrast, will simply abolish the National Parks law. The draft bill has been opposed to by 113 NGOs, and the European Commission itself described the draft bill as “worrying” (Turkey Progress Report, 9 November 2010), but the criticisms have been ignored.
This highly controversial legislation is being rushed through the Turkish Parliament, under cover of civil unrest, and represents a catastrophe for nature conservation in Turkey. As natural and social scientists leading European research in biodiversity conservation and the human benefits derived from natural systems, we support our Turkish academic and NGO colleagues in deploring this myopic legislation and calling on the Turkish government to redraft this legislation taking account of their legitimate concerns.
Signed: coordinators and researchers at the following European Commission funded biodiversity related research projects.
Ms Ece Ozdemiroglu, economics for the environment consultancy, UK.
Estelle Balian, Positive Visions for Biodiversity, Belgium.
Dr Rob Bugter, BESAFE Project, the Netherlands.
Dr Eeva Furman, OpenNESS project, Finland.
Prof Dr Wouter de Groot, BIOMOT project, the Netherlands.
Dr Paula Harrison, IMPRESSIONS project, UK.
Dr Sybille van den Hove, SPIRAL project, Spain.
Dr Rupert Read, Green House Thinktank, UK
Professor Mark Rounsevell, OPERAs project, UK
Prof Dr Josef Settele, SCALES project, Germany.
Dr Rob Tinch, CLIMSAVE project, Belgium.