The Black Sea region is one of the most fascinating and least-known parts of Turkey. It extends east from Istanbul towards the border with Georgia and comprises coastal zones and mountains, with a steep coastline and raging rivers running through narrow valleys. With its damp climate and lush vegetation, it is home to immense tea plantations.
This beautiful region, more water-rich than any other part of the country, is constantly under threat from projects introduced by the current government, which in recent years has been lavish with extravagant dams and monumental hydroelectric power plants. At this rate, by 2030 there will not be a single medium or large waterway able to reach the sea without impediment.
And there’s more. Just before the parliamentary elections on June 7, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced that the new Eastern Black Sea Regional Development Plan (DOKAP) included a new project for a “Green Road”, a 2,600-kilometer-long network, designed to connect the mountain villages of eight of the region’s provinces and boost tourism in the region.
Unfortunately there is very little that is “green” about this plan. With over half the route at altitudes over 2,000 meters, running past mountain peaks and through unspoiled valleys and forests, the road would end up devastating the very landscapes it wants to promote, causing irreversible harm to local ecosystems and biodiversity. Producers in a Slow Food Presidium for honey currently being organized would also be at risk.
Civil society has not remained silent, and popular actions to block the project have been started in various areas. They include the Fırtına İnsiyatifi (Fırtına Initiative), to which the Slow Food Firtina Vadisi Convivium belongs. Appeals and protests have been organized. And even though the Rize administrative court suspended the project’s implementation on July 13, the next day the contractors’ bulldozers began tearing down the first trees in the Avuzor, Haczene and Husor highlands in the Camlihemsin district.
Ozlem Erol, the leader of the Slow Food Firtina Vadisi Convivium, is very worried. “Turkey has signed the Berne Convention, and based on this agreement had promised to safeguard these mountain areas, preserving their flora and fauna. In fact at the time they were declared protected zones, SIT alani in Turkish. But all it took was the modification of those laws, in defiance of the international agreements, to accommodate all kinds of construction, ruining pastures, highlands and mountains.”
Environmental causes are of particular concern to the Slow Food network in Turkey, which sees in this project, as in the recent law regarding speculation on olive groves, a threat to rural communities and their future. Defne Koryurek, the Slow Food International Councilor for Turkey, confirms: “The ‘Green Road’ was not designed to promote tourism and improve services, but to devastate pastures and highlands. It will make the area vulnerable not only to potential new building speculation, a real specialty at the moment in this country, but also to incursions by the mining industry. With the construction of this road, the highlands that for millennia have rested between sky and sea will become building sites and service areas, and the silence will be replaced by noise.”
You can support the campaign against this useless and harmful project by signing the petition.