There have been protests at Middle East Technical University (ODTU in Turkish) for a while now against the building of a motorway through the 100th year forest within its campus. This story of yet another illegal major infrastructure project is covered here in Turkish: http://filizyavuz.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/ankaranin-buklum-buklum-yollari-1-odtu-baskentin-gezisi-olma-yolunda/
ODTU is becoming Ankara’s Gezi Park. Just as Gezi Park did not concern only those who lived around it but all Istanbul residents, the bypass that will link Anadolu bolouvard and Konya motorway and 100th year forest threatened by it is the concern of all Ankara residents. As Environmental Engineers Association General Secreatary Baran Bozoglu says the emissions from the cars using the debatable motorway will damage the forest defined as Ankara’s lungs, change the vegetation and pollute ODTU, 100th year and Cigdem neighbourhoods. 350Ankara activist Onder Algedik says the motorway will lead to urban sprawl. ODTU political science and public administration student Hadi Sinan Iskit agrees and adds ‘We will not allow this road to be built!’.
According to the University rector 3,000, according to environmental activist 5,000 trees will be cut down for the construction. There will be two bridges along the 4-km long motorway: a 100 meters long bridge above the main entrance to the University campus and a 40 km long one linking to Dikmen (neighbourhood). There will also be a viaduct in front of the main entrance to ODTU campus that will be 66 meters long and 30 meters wide. This viaduct will separate the two neighbouring areas of ODTU and 100th year and Cigdem districts.
The decision to build the road was made and approved by ODTU in 1994. The head of Ankara Metropolis Municipality Melih Gokcek describes the objective as “together with Eskisehir Road in the west, to reduce Ankara traffic”.
But this explanation by Gokcek does not convince the protesting Ankara residents. Environmental Engineering Association points to a serious planning mistake: the bottleneck in the traffic is before ODTU and hence the motorway will not help relieve it. General Secretary Bozoglu adds: “In any case you cannot solve traffic problems by building more roads. Because the road is wider, more cars would use it and create more traffic”. He adds before the motorway is built, the completion of the Cayyolu underground project as people shifting from the road to the metro may in fact solve the problem.
350Ankara activist Onder Algedik says: “All the data shows that to ignore public transport and build a 8-lane motorway is just a means to increase rent-seeking on urban land. Residents in Cigdem and 100th year neighbourhoods report visits by developers. The motorway will cause urban extension in Ovecler and Dikmen neighbourhoods further away. The objective of the project is “kill public transport, kill urban living” and create a new fossil fuel and urban land rent.”
Residents are also worried about the viaducts that will divide their neighbourhoods as they see the construction threatening security and air and noise pollution. 100th year is mainly populated by ODTU students, and Cigdem by ODTU teaching staff and pensioners who moved to the area for peace and quiet. One such resident Gonul Oner said “I am against the motorway with its enormous viaduct through our neighbourhood. In a few days, that road will not be enough either. Then what?” She favours public transport including metro. Kemal Avci, one of the first residents of the neighbourhood, says the neighbourhood needs a road but not just a large one. They are against the road if it will create more pollution and cut down trees. It must be possible to find another route for the road.
1.8 km of the road will go through ODTU land, 400 meters of which through 1st degree natural protection area. According to the environmental activists, the area was declared protected in 1995 which overrules the permission given to the road in 1994 as construction on protected areas is illegal (laws: 2863 and 5226). The project is also against the “Convention to Protect the World Cultural and Natural Heritage” which Turkey signed in 1982. In order for a construction project to go ahead in a protected area, Regional Protection Board needs to give approval. Such a decision is not yet given. On 8th September, lawyer Sedat Vural petitioned a case against the motorway as it will disrupt public order, is illegal and an arbitrary act. On 13th September, residents of Cigdem neighbourhood also petitioned a case to stop the construction.
ODTU forest also won Agahan Architecture, Environment and Portection Award in 1995 (a prestigious award in Islamic world) and TEMA Foundation award in 2003. ODTU Civil Engineering staff member Dr Erhan Karaesmen says “There is a huge forest in the middle of the yellow landscape of this arid land. It’s an unparalleled experience.”
CHP (Republican People’s Party) MP Aylin Nazliaka thinks the ongoing construction is illegal. She says the project has not been voted on by the Municipal Assembly and the public has not been consulted on it. Despite this the tendering process started one year ago. The project also started without the approval of the protection board. She asks: “How can he be so sure of what the board will decide? What will happen if the board decides to vote in favour of protection? Are we again be asked to pay for the expenditure?.
- ODTU – A warrant for a student’s arrest has been issued (translatingtaksim.wordpress.com)
- ODTU put up its resistance tents (translatingtaksim.wordpress.com)