Arbitrary, Development-Obsessed Environmental Policy-Making Threatening Turkey's Ecosystems

© Jennifer Hattam
Rampant development is putting Turkey's natural environment at risk.

Ongoing debate about the composition of Turkey's top scientific institute is more than just academic, according to a respected conservation biologist. He argues that changes to the membership of the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA) are emblematic of the problems plaguing environmental policy-making as well.

The Turkish government's decision earlier this year to appoint TÜBA members (who were previously selected by their peers) has prompted many scholars to resign, saying the academy's independence has been threatened. Critics of the move also charge that the decision was made "without explanation or any public debate," as Dr. Çağan Hakkı Şekercioğlu wrote in today's edition of Science.

Economic Development Trumps Environmental Concerns
"As ecologists and conservation biologists working in Turkey, we have witnessed a similar level of increasing arbitrariness in environmental policy, where economic development has trumped all other concerns," wrote Şekercioğlu, the lead author of a comprehensive recent report that painted a grim picture of Turkey's biodiversity in crisis.

Legislative or legal developments over just the past two years have created a host of obstacles to ecosystem protection, many of which we've covered previously here on TreeHugger. According to Şekercioğlu, these include allowing mining in wildlife refuges, excluding riparian and coastal areas from wetland conservation zoning, constructing dams and other energy projects in protected areas, redefining terms such as "common good" and "sustainable use," and eliminating independent conservation committees.

The silver lining, if there is one, is that such behind-closed-door moves are drawing an increasing amount of attention, with the New York Times picking up the biodiversity-crisis story yesterday. With Turkey's natural riches both unique and globally important, the effort to protect them should know no borders.

Tags: Biodiversity | Conservation | Turkey