CENGİZ AKTAR

Development at any cost

In the Turkish development model, one pan of the balance holds the intertwined and »»

In the Turkish development model, one pan of the balance holds the intertwined and self-feeding areas of energy, construction and profit, while the other pan concerns the nature, citizens, cities and civilization.

 The balance has been weighted on the first pan in recent history. Let us take a brief look now at the most recent state of developmental tools.

Public Procurement Law

The main financial resource for the construction industry, the law was enacted in April 2002, but has been amended 18 times since. It ended up as a non-transparent piece of legislation, far from any modern criteria for public tender. The law regulates TL 91.7 billion in spending (2011 figures) which comes out of taxpayers’ pockets. Out of the total amount, TL 12 billion were spent via tenders “falling outside the bidding tender format,” while another TL 17 billion were distributed through “direct procurement.” As it is, the autonomy of the Public Procurement Authority in charge was terminated last August along with the autonomies of the other eight supervisory authorities.

Nature Law

The first 14 articles of the Nature and Biological Variety Protection Law were approved by Parliament’s Environment Commission at the end of May. The blueprint for this bill, which had been in the works since 2003, was finally ready in 2009. The bill had originally met strong opposition not only from civil society organizations but also from the European Commission.

If adopted the law would wipe progress made in nature conservation since 1958. It makes it possible to change or completely eliminate the borders that delineate land which is tagged for protection. In addition, the articles that had been included in a previous bill which allowed for the scientific community, relevant public offices, civil society organizations and citizens living in and around the protected lands to be involved in the decision-making processes have been eliminated from the present bill.

Through the use of intricate concepts such as the “protection-utility balance,” or “superior public benefit” in relation to natural and cultural protected sites in Turkey, the law not only does not offer protection but in fact opens up these lands to use by the mining, energy, industry, agriculture and tourism sectors. As for the boards that designate the protected lands, these are not at all independent but are staffed by people appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning.

Moves that could damage 1,234 protected areas of Turkey can be blocked today by laws and courts. But if the aforementioned bill becomes law, legislation would no longer have any authority over these protected sites. Turkey stands the risk of losing its national treasures, including the 3,500 endemic plants that make it exceptional.

2B Law

Since 2003 the government has been trying to make financial use of damaged forest lands. The Chamber of Forestry Engineers notes that out of 27 million acres that are no longer available for public use, 20 percent have been due to fires, 8 percent have been due to mistaken forestry policy, and a full 56 percent have been due to legal provisions! The newly enacted law is clearly going to offer up even more opportunity for the continuing despoilment of the forests.

Nuclear Power Plant Law

Nuclear energy is not an old enough technology for its effects to be clearly understood. This is why today’s motto is “après moi, le deluge” (after me, the flood). Nuclear energy is neither cheaper nor cleaner. The pollution it causes cannot be seen by the naked eye. As for the argument that it guarantees Turkey’s independence in energy, this is nothing but a fairy tale as we have neither uranium ore nor nuclear scientists!

Work safety

There are on average 176 work accidents a day in Turkey, as a result of which an average of three people are killed and five injured. In 2010 there were a total of 62,903 work accidents and 533 illnesses that occurred due to work conditions, with 1,444 people losing their lives in these accidents and another 10 dying as a result of a work-related illness. Of these deaths, a full 475 -- or around one-third -- of the total took place in the construction sector. Meanwhile, debates continue on the Occupational Health and Safety Law bill.

Similarly, the new Mass Labor Relations Law bill does not bring down the necessary union thresholds needed for striking collective labor agreements. Workers covered by collective agreements in Turkey are only 13.3 percent of all workers.

A sad state of affairs regarding development at any cost…

2012-06-13

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Columnist:: CENGİZ AKTAR