Turkish union opposes lease of forest areas to big business

 TARIM ORMAN-IS, the Turkish Union of Agriculture, Forestry, Husbandry and Environment Sectors, warned of the massive destruction of Turkey’s forest areas as a result of the General Directorate of Forestry’s decision to allow private enterprises to lease forest areas to operate for purpose of afforestation, which in the past was assigned to a team of experts.

The union explained that under the “special afforestation regulation,” private enterprises are allowed to lease specific areas for 49 years, particularly those concentrated in the coastal band in southern Turkey. The lease agreement is renewable for another term and a private enterprise can apply to lease more than one area. 

TARIM ORMAN-IS President Sukru Durmus feared that the entry of the private sector could harm the areas’ wildlife and natural resources. In an interview by a local newspaper, Durmus said that while everybody was busy fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the Directorate started the application process for leasing and has received 21,000 applications. He noted that the applications are concentrated mostly in frequently-visited coastal cities, such as Antalya, Izmir and Mugla. 

Durmus said that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and General Directorate of Forestry have committed a "constitutional crime.” “The purpose of the private sector leasing the areas is clear. Lease applicants are mostly business people targeting areas of high value and profit, particularly Maquis lands. Thus, we can expect massive tourism-centric construction and development in the coastal band which could potentially end the wildlife there,” he said. 

 TARIM ORMAN-IS announced that they would take legal action to protect the environment and has called on different non-government organisations (NGOs) to join the campaign.