Environmentalists protest tramway construction in Istanbul’s Belgrade Forest
A group of environmentalists on Jan. 29 protested the planned construction of a tramway line that is expected to tear through Istanbul’s Belgrade Forest, Doğan News Agency has reported.
The North Forests Defense Platform, a civil society group, had gathered to protest against the tramway construction, saying that the project was not a nostalgic one, as said, but instead was an act of pillage.
Elif Köklü, an environmentalist who made a statement on behalf of the North Forests Defense Platform, said the Belgrade Forest was undergoing severe danger, noting that it stands as the only remaining forest on the European side of Istanbul.
“The tramway project that is expected to start from the Golden Horn, cross over the Cendere River and extend as far as to the Kemerburgaz district, cannot be allowed,” she said.
She said the project would tear apart the forest and lead to deforestation, noting that many trees had already been marked for destruction.
Köklü said they had asked the Istanbul Municipality about the project but had not received a response yet.
The tramway line could stretch as far as 6.5 kilometers, according to Köklü.
Selma Kambur, another protestor, said she stood against the project because she believed the construction could be an invitation for tenders and renting in the forest.
The protestors carried banners that said “Hands off Belgrade Forest” and walked through the forest.
Earlier in December, 2016, environmentalists on social media had expressed fury that a dozen of trees had been marked for destruction. While the North Forests Defense Platform had known then that the marking was done for the railway line between the Golden Horn and Kemerburgaz. The Istanbul Municipality had stated that “the trees on the route of the railway can be moved to a more suitable place.”
Meanwhile, environmentalists also staged a demonstration in Maçka Park, which is located in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul, to protest the Beşiktaş side of the park being fenced with razor wire due to planned tunnel projects between the Dolmabahçe and Levazım districts, and the Baltalimanı and Ayazağa districts.
The group of protestors had gathered via social media and protested under heavy snowfall demanding the authorities to stop damaging the environment. “Decreasing city traffic could be beneficial for the public, but the protection of green space is also for the wellbeing of the public,” the protesters said.
The municipality said they would not cut the trees, but would plant more after the construction was completed.
The tunnel project was approved by the Istanbul Municipal Council on May 2016.