Luxury villas being built on burned forestland on Turkey’s Aegean coast

Construction is underway for 28 additional luxury villas on a burned-down forest lot in Turkey’s tourist Muğla province on the Aegean coast. Two hotels were built on the peninsula after a 2007 wildfire destroyed it, even though AKP Muğla deputy had assured the area would be reforested. 

Duvar English

Construction for 28 new villas in the Meşelik neighborhood in Turkey’s tourist hub Muğla province raised questions about the government’s zoning policy regarding burned-down forest areas in popular tourist regions. 

The 250-hectare Turkish Pine forest in the Meşelik neighborhood burned down in a 2007 wildfire. Then Forestry Director and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy of Muğla, İbrahim Aydın, reassured locals that the area would be reforested and not opened to construction. 

The deputy had said, “Forest and development zones are clearly delineated. I am confident that the burned area will not be opened to construction. We will begin planting and reforestation in the coming months,” according to Feb. 10 reporting by the daily Sözcü.

The confidence was unfounded, as three hotel complexes were built on the burnt forest lot. La Blanche Island in 2012, Titanic Deluxe Bodrum in 2016, and Lujo Bodrum in 2018. The owner of Lujo Bodrum is now building 28 additional luxury villas on the 25,000 square meters neighboring public property registered as a forest area.

Property owners justified construction by saying everything was lawful. They had all the permits and licenses required by the state. The environmental impact reports for the hotels were prepared and approved by the relevant institutions. 

A Lujo Hotel executive said that they acquired the land in 2021 from the Culture and Tourism Ministry as a tourism lot. They postponed the project after the 2022 wildfires that ravaged the region and obtained all construction permits and necessary licenses from the Milas Municipality and the Tourism and Urbanization Ministries. 

Muğla’s Meşelik Neighborhood is not the first or only victim of the lax environmental regulations in Turkey. The government bends and stretches definitions of forest lots or protected archeological sites to grant pro-government construction firms tenders and permits. 

The current Muğla municipality stated that it had filed 189 separate lawsuits over its four-year tenure, against government decisions to change the grade of natural heritage areas in the province to open them up for development.