Law effective following today’s local elections may harm rural population

Law effective following today’s local elections may harm rural population

A bird-eye view reveals how trees at the construction site of a third suspension bridge over İstanbul’s Bosporus strait were damaged.(Photo: Reuters)

March 30, 2014, Sunday/ 00:00:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

A law passed in 2012 that incorporates towns and villages into metropolitan municipalities will be fully implemented following today's local elections.

 The law, No. 6360, which has already resulted in a large decrease in the total rural population in Turkey, may have adverse effects on rural inhabitants and their lifestyles.

The law will result in all provinces with populations larger than 750,000 also becoming metropolitan municipalities. As such, 13 new metropolitan municipalities will be created in Turkey. According to a 2012 Secretariat-General for EU Affairs (ABGS) report, “the delimitations of the boundaries of metropolitan municipalities have been revised for a more effective and productive provision of public services. With this law, the aim is to strengthen democracy in Turkey at the local level, to ensure efficiency in municipality services and to provide better services from municipalities.”

Administrative changes resulting in the transformation of the status of villages and towns have been gradually taking place since the law was passed in 2012, which resulted in a sharp decline in Turkey's rural population. Figures from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) show the country's rural population decreasing from 22.7 percent in 2012 to 8.7 percent in 2013. As villages and towns have lost their status, becoming incorporated into districts of the greater municipality, the number of villages in Turkey has declined from 34,434 in 2012 to 18,214 in 2013.

An analysis from Bloomberg HT editor İrfan Donat last week warned that the law technically transforms a villager into a city dweller, but without the benefits of the services afforded to one living in an urban area. Donat's analysis pointed to a report prepared by Chamber of Agricultural Engineers member Dr. Bülent Gülçubuk titled “The Metropolitan Municipality Law From the Perspective of the Future of Agricultural and Rural Areas.” In the report, Gülçubuk concludes that the law may result in pastures being more easily appropriated, a compromise in the integrity of natural resources, rural land being converted into urban plots and a new wave of rural-to-urban immigration.

Turkey's rural population has continually decreased throughout the years as villagers flock to its larger urban centers. In 1960, the rural population of the country stood at 68 percent of the total, a number that had shrunk to 28 percent by 2011. Rural poverty rates are normally higher than the corresponding figures in urban areas. Recent World Bank figures estimate that 5 million rural dwellers in the developing world migrate to urban areas every month.

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