Turkish Locals: No More Coastal Concrete Jungles!


A large seaside hotel development in the Bodrum area. Photo: Jennifer Hattam

Of all the places I've been in Turkey, by far my least favorite is Bodrum, a tourist mecca on the Aegean coast that is full of noisy discos, tacky souvenir shops, and, well, tourists, to the point where finding a full English breakfast seems easier than getting some good Turkish food. These days, locals are also getting fed up with the development that is rapidly turning a small fishing town into a beton şehir, or "concrete city."

Bodrum residents are up in arms about a May 11 government decision that declared three towns in the northern part of the Bodrum peninsula as "tourism centers" -- a designation that makes it easier for hotels to get construction permits and could grant the country's Culture and Tourism Ministry the authority to prepare new building plans for the area. Said Bodrum Mayor Mehmet Kocadon:

Every small piece of private land on the shore now has a building on it. It is time to put an end to this madness; it is time for Bodrum to take a breath.

Vows To Fight Shoreline Destruction
A similar ruling declared the entire Bodrum peninsula a tourism center in 2006, but area residents managed to get the decision rejected in court. The government has responded to the current critics, who now include local deputies and members of Parliament's Environment Committee, by saying it has no intention of building up the country's coastlines. On June 5, World Environment Day, Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay declared:

The tourism center in northern Bodrum is for now just a declaration. No buildings destroying the shores or damaging historical remains will be allowed during my term, or after me.

While the city retains its lovely setting, a natural harbor nestled amid hills, like other Aegean and Mediterranean towns it has become filled with hotels and summer homes and largely dependent on tourist income -- income that residents of the region say over-development actually threatens. In the Ovacık district near Fethiye, locals and visitors alike are protesting continued development in the face of a law that calls for construction work to be halted in holiday resorts during the summer high season.

Causes Of Over-Development
Poor planning, lack of coordination between the government and local residents, and unlicensed or unregistered construction among the causes of over-development. Just this week, a real-estate agent in the Bodrum area admitted he had spent 500,000 Turkish Liras on unlicensed construction over the last 40 years. "I don't have land registry, I don't have a building permit or any other legal permission," he said. "No official has told me to stop; they in fact said, 'You continue building and will get the permits in the future.'"

Environmentalists say the problem is compounded by a lack of infrastructure and water shortages. Said Filiz Dizdar, spokesperson for the Mavi Yol Girişimi, or Blue Line Initiative:

The infrastructure work should be completed, agricultural lands, and wetlands should be allocated and then it should be decided to what ratio of the area construction will be allowed... Although the water is not enough for the number of current buildings, we are still building new ones.... A major portion of the municipalities’ income comes from the building permits. But this situation cannot go on. The people in Bodrum should be involved in the process of preparing new plans for the future.

Via: "Pouring concrete over a paradise," Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review

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Tags: Construction | Oceans | Tourism | Turkey

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