AKP's Environmental Policies: Prioritizing economic growth over nature

AKP's Environmental Policies: Prioritizing economic growth over nature
A+ A-
How the AKP Government's actions have led to ecological destruction in Turkey

by Ogulcan Ozgenc

In an interview with Arti Gercek, Prof. Dr. Aykut Coban, a professor of environmental politics at Ankara University, discussed the environmental policies of the AKP government. Çoban began by noting that the interests of capital have shaped the AKP's environmental policies. He pointed to the example of the 1972 Stockholm Conference, which representatives from capitalist and socialist countries attended. While the socialist countries called for environmental protection, the capitalist countries were more interested in protecting the interests of businesses.

Çoban said that this same dynamic has been at play in Turkey. He pointed to the example of the 1983 Environment Law, which the military government passed. While the law contains some provisions that benefit the environment, it also includes many loopholes used by businesses to exploit natural resources.

Çoban said that the AKP has further weakened environmental protections. He pointed to the example of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulation, amended in 2013 to make it easier for businesses to get approval for projects that could harm the environment.

Çoban said that the most recent example of the AKP's disregard for the environment is the case of Akbelen Forest. He said that the government's decision to build a road through the forest is a clear example of how the AKP is willing to sacrifice the environment for economic development.

Çoban concluded that the AKP's environmental policies betray the working class and nature. He said that the government's policies are leading to the destruction of the environment and that this will harm the health and well-being of the Turkish people.

Environmental policies in Turkey: From the 1990s to the AKP era

In the 1990s, environmental protection became a more prominent issue at the international level. The Brundtland Report, the National Environmental Strategy and Action Plan, and the environmental policies adopted by the EU all influenced the development of environmental policies in Turkey.

Coban notes that the sustainable development strategy, which includes environmental protection, economic growth, and social justice, became the foundation for ecological policies in Turkey during this period. This strategy was reflected in development plans, local Agenda 21s, and the work of the Ministry of Environment.

However, there was a gap between the principles and goals of environmental policies and their implementation in practice. This gap was evident in the 1990s, when thermal power plants, coal mining, highways, tourism investments, and industrial facilities were built, despite their environmental unsustainability. The state often encouraged these projects, which provided various incentives to investors.

In line with the sustainable development strategy, environmentalist civil society organizations (CSOs) began to develop in the 1990s. These CSOs, many funded by international and national funds, lent legitimacy to environmental protection policies blended with capitalism.

The AKP came to power in 2002, and environmental protection has been an essential agenda item throughout its rule. However, the AKP's environmental policies have been criticized for favoring economic development over environmental protection.

For Coban, this is evident in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulation amendments. The EIA Regulation is designed to assess the environmental impacts of proposed projects and is supposed to be a tool for protecting the environment. However, the AKP has amended the EIA Regulation to make it easier for investors to get approval for projects that could harm the environment.

In addition, the AKP has been accused of giving positive opinions on EIAs in favor of investors, while negative views on protecting the environment are the exception.

The AKP's environmental policies have led to a significant increase in ecological destruction in Turkey. This is a severe problem that needs to be addressed.

AKP's environmental policies have led to ecological destruction in Turkey

The AKP government has been accused of prioritizing economic growth over environmental protection, leading to a significant increase in ecological destruction in Turkey.

Since coming to power in 2002, the AKP has amended environmental laws to make it easier for businesses to get approval for projects that could harm the environment. The government has also built thousands of hydroelectric power plants, destroyed forests, and allowed mining companies to operate in sensitive areas.

For Coban, these policies have resulted in a dramatic increase in air pollution, water pollution, and deforestation. Forest fires, mucilage, and other environmental disasters have become more common.

Environmental groups and scientists have criticized the AKP's environmental policies. They argue that the government is putting the short-term interests of businesses ahead of the long-term health of the environment.

In 2021, Turkey ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, but environmental groups say the government is not doing enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Concluding, Coban stresses that the AKP government has defended its environmental policies, saying they are necessary to promote economic growth. However, critics say the government is sacrificing the environment for short-term financial gain.

The recent protests in Akbelen forest, where villagers are fighting a coal mining project, are a sign of growing public opposition to the AKP's environmental policies.