A Subsequent Destruction of Natural Environment in Istanbul
Disregarding criticisms, the Turkish Islamic conservative government launched the construction of the third bridge over the Bosporus Strait in the northern outskirt of Istanbul already May 2013, the anniversary of Istanbul’s conquest by the Ottomans.
At the same time – May 2013 at Taksim Square – people started the largest protest in Turkish history against another destruction of natural environment and traditional urban space by the Turkish government at the center of Istanbul – well known in our days as the Gezi Park protests worldwide.
On May 14th, 1453 Mehmet II finally conquered Byzantium that stands today for the end of Byzantium and the birth of the Ottoman Empire. 560 years later the now president of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan celebrated the third bridge’s official start of construction. The bridge will be a combined road-rail bridge. It will carry four motorway lanes and one railway line in each direction.
Sense of Time visited the construction area of the upcoming third bridge close to the Black Sea and documented an area of cutted trees and destroyed green space.
Day One: European side
Close to the peaceful fisherman’s village of Garipçe stands already a huge pillar of 322-meter height in the waters and another one on the opposite shore. The changes to Garipce’s serene environs are dramatic. A tremendously lane of wasteland departs the nature close to Garipçe; it is the path of the future highway of 115 kilometer length connecting Europe and Asia and leading to the largest Airport in the world planned for the future in Istanbul.
This enormous lane for the highway is already visible from orbit by satellites (see the image below). The villagers of Garipçe don’t really know what to expect from the construction of the bridge. The gossip among the fishermen is that the fishing grounds are being damaged by the construction, but nobody knows if it’s true. No one came and talked with them about the intervention into nature and the effect on the environment. The fishermen are hearing rumors that they will be kicked out, and the problem is that half the families here, they’ve been here for decades but don’t have legal papers for their places.
The activities and lumber on the European side close to Garipçe are less so far compared with the huge one on the other side of the strait.
Day Two: Asian side
It is much more difficult to get to the Asian construction site than to the European; the Asian one is located between the villages of Akbaba and Poyrazköy in the middle of nowhere.
Surrounded by a still beautiful landscape you feel lost in the wasteland of the constructions; excavators, lorries, pillars and a lot of dirt and dust surround you.
It is a huge area of clearing the forest and building the lane to the city. It is easy to talk to the employees; they are afraid of the new bridge, the highway and the effect on the nature and the living condition in Istanbul; one worker said: “Not O.K., but money for family.”
According to the Turkish government the third bridge is a way to handle the transit traffic of the city. “Soon we will not see any lorries in Istanbul’s city traffic” promised Erdoğan in his celebration speech last year, “From there on the heavy vehicles have to cross the third bridge“.
But there is a need to look at the bigger picture and see that more construction means more population and more traffic problems for Istanbul. According to the opponents of the bridge, Istanbul’s traffic problem cannot be resolved through the construction of new bridges, which will attract more residential areas and thus a greater population around them.
Others also voiced its criticisms about the construction of the third bridge, which it described as being “illegal” in press statements.
With rapid transformation projects, Istanbul is fighting against very serious urban problems. Unplanned development leads to the destruction of water basins, which are the life-support systems of the city, agricultural fields, forests and meadows. It should not be forgotten that the third bridge, whose foundation has been laid, would mean more carbon emission, deforestation and less carbon sequestration, according to the Turkish Foundation for Reforestation, Protection of Natural Habitats and Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA).
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