1. What is the reason for carrying out Ecological Based Scientific Research Projects and changing the Natural Site Area categories based on this report?
Previous categorizations of Natural Site Areas were made without any scientific base, legal justifications or decisions. Ecological Based Scientific Research Projects were carried out in order to determine their bio-ecological values based on national and international regulations lead by expert academicians. The aim is to determine the source values of said areas based on scientific reasons and to resolve any legal issues stemming from the problems in previous categorizations.
2. Does these alterations made to the categorizations of Natural Site Areas violate international conventions Turkey is party to?
On the contrary, these studies based on scientific research support international conventions. According to new regulations, there are three new categories of natural site areas: Sensitive Areas under Strict Protection, Qualified Natural Protection Areas and Sustainable Protection and Controlled Utilization Areas. The process of determining these areas was:
- National and international regulations were scanned,
- Existing practices and flaws of protected areas were studied,
- General principles of protection were determined,
- Nationally and internationally protected areas were tried to be matched,
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria were sampled and a Guide for Conservation of Nature was prepared,
- Taking into account international conventions, new categories of Natural Siste Areas have been determind by matching IUCN criteria.
- IUCN Category (I a) – Strict Nature Reserve: Matches our Sensitive Areas under Strict Protection. For the protection of resource values; the use of the area and all activities on the area are restricted, where necessary the entry of people is prevented, scientific researches, training or environmental monitoring may only be carried out by special measures. These are land, water and marine areas to and are subject to strict prohibition of construction. Any private properties in these areas will be expropriated.
- IUCN Category (I b) – Wilderness Area: Matches our Qualified Natural Protection Areas. These are land, water and marine areas where the natural structure is unchanged or only slightly changed, which is not affected by modern life and not significantly affected by human activities, where natural processes prevail and where it is appropriate for locals to sustain their traditional nature-based life for conservation purposes. In these areas farming activities are allowed except for greenhouse agriculture, fishery activities are allowed except for fish farming, and tented camping areas, bungalows and day-to-day activities compatible with the natural structure of the area also allowed.
- IUCN Category (VI) – Protected area with sustainable use of natural resources: Matches our o Sustainable Protection and Controlled Utilization Areas. These are areas in which naturally and culturally compatible low intensity activities, tourism and housing that affect, complete, help to protect and Sensitive Areas under Strict Protection and Qualified Natural Protection Area are allowed
3. Are Ecological Based Scientific Research Projects scientifically prepared?
“Ecological Based Scientific Research Projects” have been carried out in order to determine the bio-ecological (flora, fauna, habitat), geological, hydrogeological and geomorphological values of the areas in all natural site areas.
Within the scope of Ecological-Based Scientific Research Project of Muğla District Natural Site Areas many experts in related fields have been employed: Ecologist, Botanical Expert, Mammalian Expert, Herpetologist, Ornithologist, Invertebrate Expert, Marine Biologist, Hydro-biologist, Geological Engineer, Landscape Architect, Map Engineer and GIS Expert.
This multi-disciplinary team is made up of experts of their own fields, most of them working in academia.
4. Is it true that new regulations are in violation of UNDP Sustainable Development Goal 15?
On the contrary, our new regulation supports UNDP Sustainable Development Goal 15, which aims that by 2020, the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements is ensured.
5. Is it true that the protection levels of natural site have been lowered and some natural areas have been taken out of protection?
In contrast to the aforementioned site-category changes, the new ones have a more conservative approach and are protected by new statutes with stricter protection rules.
While many activities can be done in the 1st Degree Natural Site Areas before, activities allowed in Sensitive Areas under Strict Protection are very limited.
Qualified Natural Protection Areas are protected at almost at the level of the previous 1st degree Natural Site Area.
Activities in the old 2 nd and 3 rd Degree site areas; these areas are now activities that can be carried out in sustainable use, and these permits are only allowed if the regional commissions permit it.
In other words, the perception is totally wrong and studies are more protective and scientific.
6. Are there any 1st degree national site areas where tourism has been made available?
Ecological Based Scientific Research Reports are reports in which ecological, geological, geomorphological, hydrogeological and landscape aspects of the site are evaluated and a new site category is suggested. According to the reports; areas contributing to the development and maintenance of balanced relationships between people and nature, which include human settlements in harmony with landscaping, natural resource management systems and related cultural values, have been proposed as “Sustainable Protection and Controlled Use Areas”. These areas contain low-density human settlements. Without doubt, the vital rights of local people living in protected areas must be considered. In the current situation, no natural sites are declared suitable for development if they are in line with “Sustainable Protection and Controlled Use Areas” features.
7. Is it right that almost 75% of Gökova, 77% of the protected areas in Bodrum, Black Island and Kissebükü will be brought into service and development?
The status of precisely protected sensitive areas has a protection status above the old 1, 2, 3rd degree natural site statuses. The equivalent of the former 1st degree natural site status is the “Qualified Natural Conservation Status”. The status of “Sustainable Conservation and Ecological Use” corresponds to the old 2nd and 3rd degree natural site status and permits low density construction. When evaluated in terms of these general principles, Muğla-Gökova Region, 1st, 2nd and the 3rd degree natural reserve area is 36,282 hectares (ha). 35,528 ha of this area is 1st degree and 754 ha is 3rd degree.
According to the Ecological Based Scientific Research Reports made for the Gökova Region, the total area of natural protected area is 44,021 ha. Of this, 14,991 ha is definitely protected sensitive area. In other words, protection status was given even above the 1st degree. 26.979 ha was registered as a Qualified Nature Conservation Area. 14.991 ha + 26.979 ha = 41.970 ha, ie a larger area than the old 36.282 ha total site area, the natural site status of 1st degree and above is given. Only the existing urban area of 2.051 ha was registered as a sustainable conservation and control area.
In spite of all this, all expressions alleging the narrowing of the protected areas and the opening of the natural areas are directed towards the political gain. In Muğla-Gökova Gulf, the previously protected area of 36,282 hectares has been increased to 44,021 hectares. There are no registration changes in Bodrum area. The status of Strictly protected sensitive areas has a protection status above the old 1, 2, 3rd.
8. Is there a reality in the allegations that say that the natural habitats and biodiversity in Datça Peninsula and Hisarönü Bay regions will disappear and that the natural beauties of the region, such as the Göcek borders and islands in Fethiye, the coasts of Ölüdeniz and Butterfly Valley will disappear?
It is unrealistic to say that biodiversity and the natural habitats in the area concerned will disappear, the results of the “Ecological Based Scientific Research Report” have been consulted to institutional views and no registration decision has been made yet. In addition, meetings have been held with NGOs and public institutions in the region, and a transparent approach has been followed with a participatory approach.
9. Is it true that all of these areas are registered in the United Nations conservation inventory? If true, would reducing the protection levels of registered areas might cause problems before the UN?
These areas are protected in accordance with the legal regulations of our country and are not registered in the UN conservation inventory.
10. It is claimed that the process of preparing the documents referred to is far from transparency, conducted in a non-participatory way and incompatible with the aforementioned international conventions. Do you have a policy of involvement of relevant NGOs and municipalities in the carrying out of these processes? Or are these processes carried out by the state only?
IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) used in the re-evaluation of natural sites, which was initiated by the General Directorate of Nature and Natural Resources Protection of the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization since 2014, and it is understood that the new site statues belonging to the International Union for the Protection of Nature are not understood by the press and the public.
Instead of the previously used 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree natural site grading in natural sites, the (International Union for Conservation of Nature’s criteria for precisely protected sensitive areas, qualified natural protected areas and sustainable conservation and control areas are used in new studies. It is widely understood that there is a misunderstanding in the public opinion about this rating system.
The studies are carried out in a totally transparent and participatory approach. Documents related to meetings are sent to the Directorate General regarding the issue.