Receding flood waters leave business world divided

The Ayamama River overflowed last Wednesday following torrential rain, leaving the Basın Ekspress Highway under water and killing dozens of people.

September 16, 2009, Wednesday/ 17:21:00
Statements from politicians following last week's floods that cost the lives of over 40 people saying that housing sites
near or on top of riverbeds will be demolished have divided the Turkish business world, with some saying it is too early to
propose completely razing the buildings around rivers, and others supporting the idea.

 The fiercest debate is on demolishing and then renovating work and residential areas around the Ayamama River. The opponents, pointing out the nearly $7 billion worth of industrial and residential structures lining the river, have called for measures other than demolishing the buildings around it, such as modifying the river through widening its basin and by building tunnels.

An earlier news report quoting Environment Minister Veysel Eroğlu's words that “the river belongs to the Treasury, and the deeds around it are to be cancelled” is at the heart of the mixed reactions from owners of businesses located in the vicinity of the river. Many business owners are asserting that the risk of future flooding can be eliminated through careful widening of the river bed and building special tunnels.

 The president of İstanbul Real Estates Chamber, Sabri Ateş, expressed his opinion in an interview with Today's Zaman that the proposed demolitions would cost the state nearly $10 billion. Ateş noted that plot prices near the river range between $1,500 and $2,000 dollars per square meter and that one square meter of a building in the area is around $7,000.

 The New Industrialist and Businessmen's Association (YENİSİAD) also opposes the demolition of the buildings around the river. The president of YENİSİAD, Mustafa Yıldırım, notes that around 50,000 people are employed in the 4,000-meter-long, 200-meter-wide stretch of the Ayamama River that runs between Başakşehir and Ataköy.  Yıldırım says his group is working to prove the real causes of the flooding and that estimates show that between the land plots, the trade arenas and the more than 1,000 buildings located in the area, there is at least $5 billion of investment present in the Ayamama region. “Teams from the İstanbul Water and Canalization Administration (İSKİ) and the city planning board have come and detected a slope of 2 percent here. A flood cannot have a real effect on a slope of 2 percent. For this reason then, we believe that the collapse of the little lake in the military zone was the reason for this flood.”

İdris Akdoğan is the president of the company Wenice Kids, which suffered TL 1 million in damages because of the flood. Akdoğan is now calling on the İstanbul Municipality to take swift action, razing every building located along the riverside, including, of course, his own. Akdoğan says: “We support demolishing the work places here, because this damage will occur over and over. It is shame not only for us, but for the state and the people of the nation. There should be an immediate decision to demolish these buildings.”

 However, Yalçın Pekel, the owner of transportation company Durmaz Nakliyat, is opposed to the proposed demolition, asserting instead that renovation and re-building can do the job without demolishing businesses in the area. “This is real estate worth billions of dollars. Those who believe that the problem can be solved by opening up a tunnel under the road are wrong. Can the flow of a flood really be measured in order to conceive of an appropriate tunnel? This would really be wrong, and would cause further destruction. There needs to be a re-thinking of the razing idea that includes thought given to the hotels and plazas located there,” Pekel said.

Aydın Bilgin is the CEO of the newly opened 212 shopping center, and asserts that since his new center is 30 meters away from the Ayamama River bed, they would not be affected by a decision to demolish buildings around the river's bed. Bilgin said that construction of the new shopping center had been affected by orders from İSKİ to stay 30 meters away from the river bed. “We are three meters above the river bed, and we were not really affected by the flood. It was because we worked with İSKİ that we were not affected.” Bilgin also notes that his shopping center's walls helped protect the Hürriyet newspaper building, located right behind it, as well as many other nearby buildings.

LC Waikiki board member İsmail Kısacık said his group will not oppose any real efforts to re-build the area, but adds that if the state does move to re-build in the river bed area in the wake of the floods, the costs incurred must be re-paid to companies in the area. Kısacık told Today's Zaman: “Some spots do need to be razed, and, of course, the river needs to be reconfigured, we agree. But we do not believe that all of the structures along the river need to be razed to the ground.”

In the meantime, the head of the Yenibosna Industrialists and Businessmen's Association, Mustafa Yıldırım, announced that freight companies whose businesses are situated near the Ayamama watercourse have reached a deal with the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality to evacuate the area.

“Businesses which have a certificate of proprietorship will be granted the cost of expropriation. Those who do not have one will be allocated time to evacuate their places. The premises of around 30 businesses near the watercourse will be demolished,” Yıldırım noted.

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