New Turkish government regulation opens forests to mass development

Confirming the fears of many in the wake of historic wildfires in Turkey this summer, a newly released regulation by the Forestry and Agriculture Ministry allows the development of everything from prisons to religious facilities on forested land.

Duvar English 

A new regulation announced by the Turkish Forestry and Agriculture Ministry in the government’s official newspaper on Nov. 30 paves the way for widespread development and destruction of forests in Turkey.

Despite promises by the government in the wake of historic wildfires to protect forests in the country, this new decree states that permission can be granted for everything from prisons, to hotels, to religious facilities to be built on forested land. Chemical production facilities and extraction centers for tar, turpentine, chewing gum, and charcoal will also be allowed. 

Forests, by this decree, can also now be turned into transportation and utility infrastructure. Roads, bridges, harbors, tram lines, and electricity lines can now all be built on forested and protected land. Fisheries can also be built in protected areas. 

Critically, the regulation also opens protected forested areas to natural gas and oil exploration, which could be a severe threat to natural areas. Oil and gas pipelines, landfills, and waste transfer facilities are also now allowed to be built on forested land. 

This announcement confirms what many feared when historic wildfires ravaged southern and eastern Turkey this summer: that these areas would never be reforested, and would rather be developed into more, signature Justice and Development Party (AKP) mega projects. Regulation earlier this summer, as fires were burning, transferred control of certain forested and marine areas to the Ministry of Tourism and allowed for the construction of certain approved facilities, such as eco-hotels, on burnt land. This new regulation expands the type and scale of development drastically, now allowing a wider range of facilities to be built on still-living, forested land. 

The destruction that will be wreaked with the development of natural areas has already been demonstrated in Turkey. Lake Salda in southwestern Turkey was declared a “protected area” in 2019 by a presidential decree. Aftewards touristic facilities were built around the lake. Now, the lake, once one of the cleanest and deepest lakes in the world, has been heavily polluted - human waste, sewage, garbage, sweat, and sunscreen are now all putting the lake’s rare ecosystem at risk. With this new decree, the same – or worse – will happen to Turkey’s forests and protected coastal areas.

The regulation requires developers to pay a development fee to “cover the cost” of forest destruction.

The full text outlining the construction now allowed is as follows:

In the case of public interest and necessity, the following is allowed to be built on forested areas: transportation facilities such as roads, port service areas, airports, railways, cabe car lines, and tunnels; defense and security facilities including explosive material safety areas and underground explosive material storage; energy facilities such as power transmission lives, transformer buildings, power generation plants, and measurement and observation stations; communication facilities such as telephone transmission lines, communication panels, measurement stations, R/L facilities, radio-television transmitter stations and antennas, base stations for electronic communication systems, and fiber optic cables; water facilities such as water exploration, geothermal spring and natural mineral water exploration, water wells, catchments, water transmission lines, and water tanks; wastewater facilities; oil and gas pipelines; air separation plants using nitrogen, argon, and oxygen gases; infrastructure facilities; solid waste disposal and landfill facilities, including solid waste transfer stations; facilities for license-based oil and natural gas exploration as well as the operation and underground storage of natural fas; underground storage facilities; infrastructure including dams, ponds, stray animal shelters, and cemeteries; healthcare facilities including family health centers and hospitals; education facilities including primary, second, high schools, and religious education facilities, as well as the religious centers connected to those education facilities; sports facilities including football fields, indoor sports halls, and shooting ranges; judicial service facilities; and penitentiary institutions and related facilities.