Environment Minister Veysel Eroğlu has strongly warned İstanbul residents

Environment Minister Veysel Eroğlu has strongly warned İstanbul residents that settlements near watercourses would definitely be demolished to ensure public safety against natural disasters. “What is to be done is pretty clear.

Watercourses will be evacuated. Rivers will return to their natural forms. The prime minister has assigned the State Waterworks Authority [DSİ] and the İstanbul Waterworks Authority [İSKİ] the duty to do just that. We will cancel certificates of proprietorship if necessary,” stated the minister in an exclusive interview with Today’s Zaman.

Eroğlu’s remarks came as part of planned measures to prevent the public against natural disasters. Flash floods triggered by torrential downpour turned İstanbul streets into rapid flowing rivers, resulting in the deaths of more than 30 people last week. Houses built near watercourses were blamed for the overflow of rivers. The minister underlined that the government would show no mercy when demolishing buildings around watercourses. “The İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality, İSKİ and DSİ will determine unlicensed buildings. They will be demolished. Those with proprietorship certificates will also be demolished if they are situated near watercourses. We have prepared a circular for the rehabilitation of rivers. We will not face similar disasters if we comply with this circular,” Eroğlu said.

Eroğlu pointed to the Republican People’s Party (CHP) as responsible for last Wednesday’s disaster. “I wanted to demolish shanty houses near rivers when I was the general manager of İSKİ. The CHP opposed the planned demolitions. They applied to administrative courts and hindered the demolitions. Now they are asking why we did not demolish those buildings. We could have overcome the problem if we had cooperated,” he noted.

The impending disaster in İstanbul was pointed out in a report prepared by experts from the DSİ, İSKİ and the İstanbul Municipality’s technical affairs department in 1997. The report drawn up by experts stated at the time that 58 of İstanbul’s 174 streams and rivers had the potential to cause flooding, listing these rivers as highly dangerous and demanding immediate measures against the risk of overflowing and flooding. However, the warning remained no more than words on paper despite a notice sent from Eroğlu when he served as İSKİ general manager to the city’s municipal administrations.

14 September 2009, Monday

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