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Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

Sir,

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, Managing Director, economics for the environment consultancy,http://www.eftec.co.uk, United Kingdom

Dr Robert Tinch, Brussels Representative, eftec and OPERAs project, Belgium

Prof Dr Wouter de Groot, BIOMOT project, the Netherlands

Dr Rob Bugter, BESAFE Project, the Netherlands

Prof Dr Josef Settele, SCALES, Germany

Dr Sybille van den Hove, SPRIAL project, Spain

Dr Rupert Read, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom

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I am typing this from the balcony at the back of my family home. As it is the most secluded and the coolest part of the house surrounded by trees, this has always been my favourite part in the summer. I used to sit exactly in this spot revising for exams almost 25 years ago. How things change and don’t at the same time has inspired me to write this post…

Twenty five years ago, this neighbourhood was full of two storey houses in largish gardens with vegetable patches and empty areas where flocks of sheep used to appear from time to time. The beach down the road was just about swimmable and the sea off the islands half an hour boat ride away were definitely so. Then the city grew so much and so fast and without necessary sewage collection and treatment infrastructure it was impossible to swim in it. Public sector decision makers were too busy being politicians for a society who at least initially did not vote for good sewerage. Politicians who always found money to invest in new pavement stones (especially around the time of elections) always complained about lack of funds when it came to environmental investments. First those who could no longer enjoy the sea but could afford to travel to alternative sites did so, those who could not stayed and suffered. Over the years, public awareness increased, politicians became better educated and more responsive to political / public pressure, international funders have become more environmentally conscious. And decision makers at all levels started to incorporate the economic costs and benefits of environmental pollution into account. All this meant investment in sewerage and saving the sea from the brink of death at great expense…most likely much greater expense than would have if the city’s environmental impact was managed well from the start.

The big news in the papers at the moment is not the sea around here but almost all the rivers in the north of the country that are threatened by hydro electrical dams – 25 years ago, they were ‘just’ rivers. Some politicians have taken the environmental arguments to their illogical extreme and argue that the dams as renewable energy sources are better than fossil fuels. Sure but dams are not without their costs. These are listed in a series in one of the national dailies and include total drying out of rivers (to which water is released when the Prime Minister comes to visit!), loss of several fish, plant, invertebrate species, loss of drinking and recreational water for the locals who do not have any free or reasonably priced alternative and of course threats to the livelihood of not just local but regional populations which need flowing rivers, local flora and fauna and climate that are influenced by the rivers. Local people are protesting. In the past such protests helped create sufficient momentum to make foreign investors pull out of funding similar dams (see here for ILISU). I hope the protests work again.

Why am I writing all this?

Well it is very very hot but I am not having a nostalgic heat stroke – and believe me it is HOT over here. I am fully aware that things change. But the change need not be uncontrollable. We can list all the costs and benefits of change inducing actions or effects and can still prioritise on the basis of a comparison of these costs and benefits. If we did, we would find the money to invest in sewerage before the seas die, we would not build dams in every river valley. We would consider alternatives that are less damaging to the environment (for example efficient use and re-use of water in households and industry, more investment in wind energy which has much less effects than dams).

But sitting here reading the papers, watching the news made me realise once again that while we, environmental economists, can provide the sufficient evidence for such considered decision making, if decision makers are not willing to listen to us, we cannot do anything. Protest, as the local people do all around my mother pasture and elsewhere, is necessary. When decision makers start to ask for evidence, I’ll be there to provide it whatever the weather…in the meantime, if I find something to chain myself to in my travels for the next two weeks I’ll let you know.

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