13th Dec 2013 – By Lou Zucker. In the wake of the Gezi Park protests earlier this year, a new movement is now underway against the construction of a third bridge over the Bosphorus.
A wide breach has been cut into the forest. On the very day that activists trying to save the last green refuge in Istanbul’s center were first evicted from Gezi Park, trees started to be cleared on a massive scale just outside the city. Free from the ever-alert public gaze of the Istanbullus — few city dwellers venture into this large forest — the machines working here are preparing the grounds for a major construction project which will have a drastic environmental impact on the city: a third bridge over the Bosphorus.
Despite the fact that this is miles away from the iconic Taksim square and the city’s buzzing center, the destruction of the forest does not pass entirely unnoticed — and not without resistance either. One Sunday morning, the first day of December, activists have come by bike or on foot, carrying banners and signs; ready to enter the Belgrad forest north of Istanbul. Some even join the protest by para-glide. Their aim is to see to what extent the destruction has proceeded, to share this information with the public and to let the government know that every step towards the construction of the third bridge is under critical observation. Later, the demonstration will proceed towards the Water and Forest Ministry.
According to Kuzey Ormanları Savunması of the Northern Forest Defence, the activist group coordinating most of the protest against the third bridge, two million trees will have to be felled for the construction. This roughly equals to one third of the forest in Istanbul’s north which has not already been overrun by the city’s ferocious growth. The consequences are well known: increased threat of floods, destruction of local ecosystems, and degradation of the climate. Another two million trees less that will be unable to contribute to the CO2-compensation of this metropolis of at least 14 million inhabitants, which is already suffocating due to the heavy traffic every day — the mere thought makes it hard to breathe.
But these are only the short-term consequences. The new bridge, as Professor Bülent Akgül (name has been changed, ed.) points out, is part of an even bigger infrastructure project: a six-lane highway just north of Istanbul. The trees that will have to give way for the construction of the bridge are just the beginning: in the long run the bridge and the new highway will result in the city’s expansion towards the north. The still existing forests and watersheds in this area could already be gone or contaminated during the next ten years, the professor estimates.
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