Clear-cut for Istanbul forest park stirs debate

Trees are being felled in Istanbul's Beykoz district in order to make room for facilities as part of a giant forest park project conducted by the Forestry and Waterworks Ministry.

The project is located on 8 million square meters of forested land around the Elmalı Dam Lake, one of the city's most important water sources on the Anatolian side. The giant new park, called "Elmalı Forest Park - 7 Regions and 7 Parks," will represent the seven regions and 81 cities of Turkey in separate picnic areas named after different flowers.

A debate over the project has erupted after satellite photos revealed a deforested area in Beykoz, triggering questions over the project.

A member of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Council from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Hakkı Sağlam, brought the debate to the council's December meeting and submitted a question to Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş, asking for an official response over the felling.

Sağlam also asked Istanbul's Waterworks Authority (İSKİ) for a comment about the project, demanding to know why a number of trees were being cut down in the region's last remaining green area and in an important water basin.

He said the deforestation was actually a ploy to open the area to construction, adding that more trees had already been felled for the construction of a new highway in northern Istanbul.

The CHP council member asked who gave permission for the forest park and when, while also inquiring about the exact number of trees that were cut down for the project.

Some are attempting to lay claim to the area in the long term through the construction of villas, he said, adding that they would pursue all judicial avenues against construction in the area....

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