At last, Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca disclosed the number of COVID-19 patients according to cities. One in two coronavirus patients in the country live in Istanbul. In this megacity – where there are 2,987 people per square kilometer – there are now 1.5 COVID-19 patients per square kilometer. In other words, the city has become a center for the pandemic.
As we know, transportation, and especially air transport, played a key role in spreading the epidemic. The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) puts forward other factors, including the belated closing of Turkey’s border with Iran, not putting those who travelled from Iran to Turkey under quarantine, sending migrants and refugees to the border with Greece before bringing them back to Istanbul and not putting those who returned from a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia under quarantine.
Beyond that, Turkey – in comparison to other countries – had particular conditions that allowed for the spread of the virus: the country’s air traffic. As a reminder, the number of airline passengers in Turkey went from 33.8 million in 2002 to 208 million in 2019. What is more, Turkey set its passenger target at 246 million in 2022. This doubtlessly contributed to the spread of the virus in Turkey.
Besides, bear in mind that in the month of February, out of 11.5 million passengers across the world, 9.8 million used airports in Istanbul. Out of 14.6 million domestic passengers, 5.6 million were Istanbul passengers. As a host to 85 percent of all international travels, Istanbul has become an attraction center for corona. And as a host to 38 percent of Turkey’s domestic travels, Istanbul spread the virus to the rest of the country.
Istanbul Airport made a big leap in February with 9.8 million passengers. Out of these passengers, 7.5 million were international. That same month, as the coronavirus began spreading across the world, 3.8 million people arrived from abroad. Those 3.8 million who entered the country were obviously not put under quarantine.
And despite the cancellation of flights to and from China on Feb. 9, the overall number of international passengers increased in January compared to the previous month. The number of passengers in the whole month of January was 5.2 million. When the coronavirus was widespread in the month of February, the airport saw a total of 9.8 million passengers.
In March, we were faced with an interesting situation. While several flights continue to be permitted, President Erdoğan decreased the VAT on airline travels. On April 2, two planes from Tehran landed in Istanbul airport. Again, the more than 400 passengers that came to Turkey were not placed under quarantine.
Istanbul Airport, which enabled the spread of the coronavirus in Turkey, was funded with taxpayers’ money. The rent for the first year of the airport cost 1,045,000,000 euros and the cost of allowing passengers was 316,351,370 euros. That is, for the first year, 1 billion 361 million euros will be paid to airport’s builders and managers. That’s more than 10 billion Turkish Liras.
So while the Turkish state claims it does not have sufficient funds to combat the epidemic, 10 billion Turkish Liras will go to the airport. This data clearly suggests we should close the airport. Closing it would save money and prevent the pandemic from further spreading to the country. In case of necessity, the old Atatürk Airport could remain open.
The Energy Ministry’s 2019-2023 Strategic Plan tells us a lot about the government's intentions. It is obviously a plan that still insists on coal and hydroelectric power policies, and that has solar and wind energy only as an accessory. The climate crisis is not even mentioned.
The first coronavirus month in Turkey will be recorded in history as the month of opportunism, the month of abusing a pandemic. It kept some of its people at home and others at mines and factories, turning the country into a labor camp. Only the local administrations were left, but there were policies to curb their powers as well.
The Turkish government has not taken steps related to the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak. They actually took steps in the opposite direction asking people to do their own homework and resisting a total lockdown in the country. Meanwhile, the opposition self-quarantined itself politically.
Both the stage that the capitalism has reached globally and Turkey’s implementation of it, cannot be neglected while discussing the underlying factors which tie the climate crisis and the COVID-19 outbreak to each other.
In 2019, the number of issues broke the record with 935 extreme meteorological issues recorded in Turkey. That's 9 times the overall number recorded for the second half of the 20th century. Last year, floods occurred in cities including Ordu, Düzce, Trabzon, Antalya and Mersin that cost the lives of many people.
While Russia needs to sell its energy to Turkey, the US must stay within the Middle East to get its oil. That is why they are both seeking Turkey on their side.At the moment, Turkey is paying for the Syrian war with its loved ones and poverty. It is only by achieving peace with its neighbors that we can attain a win-win situation.
Thanks to a Special Communication Tax that was introduced after the 1999 earthquake, some 67.5 billion Turkish Liras have been collected up to now for earthquake relief. But rather than on earthquake preparedness, the money was largely spent on construction projects.
Kanal Istanbul is a project based on unjust profit-earning that is well-known first to Turkish companies, followed by Arab, European, and even Pakistani capital owners. But we still don’t know the full truth of what is going on with the project. Good that we do not know, because if we did, the Kanal Istanbul project would end immediately.
According to OECD data, Turkey allocated 289 million dollars for waste management in 2008. Ever since, the country has developed and grown, right? Despite this, the money allocated for waste management fell to 147 million dollars in 2015. We have a government that does not want to manage waste and spend money on it. Burying trash is easy; the soil is free.
President Erdoğan's government recently suffered two fiascos, one involved thermal power plants while the other had to do with a plan to rescue the private company “Simit Sarayı”. So why would it press forward with the Kanal Istanbul project?
It is possible for us to close down all coal mines! The way to this has been paved with the veto on the proposed bill. But if we leave public policy unattended and representatives continue to leave parliament seats empty, the opposite will happen. I should point out as a warning that, just like the Environment and City Planning Minister could actually be referring to the business schedule when he says “we installed a filter in 6 months,” a similar wordplay could be at hand with the veto. We will go after the answer together, I promise.
We know how much the ministry earned from shopping bags in the first nine months of the year. At 25 kuruş (cents) for each nylon bag, 15 kuruş were deposited to the ministry and the total was 188 million lira. You heard it right, 18.8 billion kuruş.
The Ministry of Forestry routinely opens up forest ecosystems for economic exploitation. It distributes permits to use forests for mineral exploitation, mining, construction and even for oil drilling. In 2012, 2,810 permits were granted for those purposes. Between 2012 and 2018, that number rose to 18,515.
The government has found a way to take back the Bosphorus after losing İstanbul elections. The Ministry of Environment and Urbanization has drafted a 28 point legislative proposal called the Boshporus Law. With the new law, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and four provinces no longer have any authority in the Bosphorus.
Volkswagen's investment plan in Turkey is a scandal. It is no less than an attempt to rescue a drowning company ensnared in corruption. While the Turkish public will bear the economic costs of this plan, environmental damage will also be caused.
Erdoğan changed the climate of the UN Climate Action Summit. He talked about how he multiplied fossil fuels and how not recycling waste is a good thing, and he put concrete as a policy on the world stage.
Turkey wants to be a party to the Paris Agreement as the structure of the deal allows countries to increase emissions. Turkey, which is among the 12 countries that have not yet joined the agreement, had added 193.5 million tons to climate changing greenhouse gases in last 20 years before 2010.