Balıke­sir aims high with trans­porta­tion project

Lo­cated at a cross­roads in west­ern Tur­key, Balıke­sir aims to be­come one of the top 10 prov­inces driv­ing the Turk­ish econ­omy us­ing its strate­gic lo­ca­tion and un­tapped po­ten­tial

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - SINAN ÖZTÜRK - BALIKESİR / IS­TAN­BUL

THE NORTH­WEST­ERN prov­ince of Balıke­sir, with coasts on the Aegean and Mar­mara seas, wants to cap­i­tal­ize on the mod­ern­ized Is­tan­bul-İzmir high­way project to be­come an eco­nomic pow­er­house in its own right.

lAst week, colum­nists and cor­re­spon­dents from var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions of the Turku­vaz Me­dia Group vis­ited the west­ern prov­ince of Balıke­sir for the Prov­ince Meet­ings event or­ga­nized by Daily Sabah’s sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion, the Sabah news­pa­per. This se­ries of events aimed to bring jour­nal­ists and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to­gether to take a glimpse at the lo­cal eco­nomic con­di­tions, on­go­ing projects and cul­tural and his­toric fea­tures of Tur­key’s prov­inces, along with dis­cus­sions to draw their eco­nomic and so­cio­cul­tural out­look to de­ter­mine the steps to be taken in the fu­ture. Warmly wel­comed by the Balıke­sir Metropoli­tan Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, our group was able to get to know Balıke­sir bet­ter while en­joy­ing the lo­cal tastes and see­ing its land­marks.

The prov­ince has a very bal­anced and di­ver­si­fied out­look in ev­ery sense, which al­lows for a promis­ing and sus­tain­able fu­ture. Agri­cul­ture, in­dus­try and tourism have equal weight in Balıke­sir’s econ­omy, which is Tur­key’s 16th big­gest in terms of prov­inces. It is the 11th largest prov­ince in terms of area, in­clud­ing 20 dis­tricts. Its 1.2 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion is the 17th largest in Tur­key and the prov­ince en­joys al­most an equal dis­tri­bu­tion be­tween its ur­ban and ru­ral and/or semi-ru­ral pop­u­la­tion.

Balıke­sir is lo­cated on a Y-shaped eco­nomic cor­ri­dor that con­nects north­west­ern Tur­key, or east­ern Thrace, with Turk­ish eco­nomic pow­er­houses Is­tan­bul, Bursa and Ko­caeli in the Mar­mara re­gion to its north­east, and İzmir and Manisa to its south in the Aegean re­gion. The main state high­way con­nect­ing Is­tan­bul with İzmir crosses Balıke­sir, serv­ing as the life­line to the prov­ince’s econ­omy. A new high­way, cross­ing the Gulf of İzmit fur­ther north­east through the Os­mangazi Bridge in­au­gu­rated in 2016, is cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion and ex­pected to be fully in ser­vice by 2019. The high­way will cut the travel time be­tween Tur­key’s largest and third largest cities by half, al­low­ing mo­torists to reach Is­tan­bul from Balıke­sir in two hours and İzmir in one-

and-a-half hours. The con­struc­tion of an­other high­way, which will start from Balıke­sir and cross the Dar­danelles via the 1915 Çanakkale Bridge, was re­cently launched in March 2017. The project in­clud­ing the world’s longest sus­pen­sion bridge is ex­pected to be com­pleted by 2023, the cen­ten­nial of the Repub­lic of Tur­key, a date fre­quently men­tioned by Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan for Tur­key’s am­bi­tious eco­nomic goals.

De­spite the lo­cal elec­tions in 2019, Balıke­sir Metropoli­tan Mayor Zekai Kafaoğlu, who as­sumed the post in Novem­ber 2017 amid the rul­ing Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party’s (AK Party) re­ju­ve­na­tion bid, also has 2023 in his sights and aims to make Balıke­sir the 10th big­gest pro­vin­cial econ­omy by this date, in line with the pro­vin­cial code, which is 10. “Tur­key is the 16th big­gest econ­omy in the world, and aims to be­come the 10th big­gest econ­omy by 2023. Balıke­sir is ranked 16th in­side Tur­key, and aims for the 10th po­si­tion. Thus, Tur­key’s and Balıke­sir’s goals over­lap,” Kafaoğlu said.

He notes that the prov­ince has road, rail­road, sea and air in­fra­struc­ture, and a gi­ant sea­port is un­der con­struc­tion in Çan­darlı in İzmir’s Dik­ili dis­trict, which would serve as a ma­jor trade hub for the north­ern Aegean. “When a busi­nessper­son de­cides to in­vest and man­u­fac­ture in Balıke­sir, he/she can eas­ily reach any­where in the world,” he said. Kafaoğlu notes that the gi­ant mil­i­tary jet base near the city cen­ter will soon open for civil­ian

com­mer­cial flights, be­com­ing the sec­ond air­port in the prov­ince af­ter the Edremit Koca Seyit Air­port.

In ad­di­tion high­ways, Balıke­sir also serves as the cross­roads for rail­ways. The line con­nect­ing İzmir with Bandırma, a size­able town of Balıke­sir on the coast of Mar­mara with a busy sea­port, crosses from the city, meet­ing with the line stretch­ing to Kü­tahya, Eskişe­hir and Ankara to Balıke­sir’s east. The city has two or­ga­nized in­dus­trial zones (OIZ) with good rail­way con­nec­tions. Kafaoğlu states that Balıke­sir is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing an al­ter­na­tive for com­pa­nies re­lo­cat­ing from Is­tan­bul for var­i­ous rea­sons in­clud­ing high costs, lack of space, over con­cen­tra­tion or a gen­eral trend in the city over the last decade shift­ing from man­u­fac­tur­ing to ser­vices, while Bursa and Ko­caeli also ex­pe­ri­ence sim­i­lar con­di­tions to a lesser ex­tent. “The first OIZ is full now, and we are adding a 7,500-square-me­ter ad­di­tional area. The sec­ond OIZ was also launched. An OIZ spe­cial­ized in heavy metal in Bandırma and an OIZ spe­cial­ized in food in Altınova were also launched. An­other spe­cial­ized OIZ for olives is also be­ing es­tab­lished in Edremit. We are also plan­ning to es­tab­lish a spe­cial­ized OIZ on healthy food and in­tro­duce ha­lal food in this re­gard, be­cause it has a rapidly grow­ing mar­ket in the world. We have se­ri­ous works with the Turk­ish Stan­dards In­sti­tu­tion [TSE] for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. We aim to es­tab­lish these OIZ’s with­out wast­ing our agri­cul­tural land,” Kafaoğlu said.

The mayor’s em­pha­sis on pre­serv­ing agri­cul­tural land is im­por­tant since Balıke­sir, along with neigh­bor­ing Çanakkale, is of vi­tal im­por­tance for feed­ing north­west­ern Tur­key that houses nearly one-third of Tur­key’s pop­u­la­tion. Both prov­inces are the clos­est and thus the most eco­nomic and sus­tain­able op­tions for cities like Is­tan­bul, Bursa and Ko­caeli to pro­vide meat, fruits and veg­eta­bles. Specif­i­cally, Balıke­sir is the lead­ing prov­ince of Tur­key for dairy prod­ucts and re­lated in­dus­tries, whereas its Aegean coast­line is fa­mous for its trade­mark olive oil, es­pe­cially in the re­sort town of Ay­valık. The re­gion is fa­mous for its clean air and low hu­mid­ity, mark­ing a per­fect com­bi­na­tion for olive groves with an es­ti­mated 10 mil­lion trees around the Gulf of Edremit. How­ever, these fea­tures, along with its cool sea and unique veg­e­ta­tion es­pe­cially on the Ida (Kaz) Moun­tains, also at­tract mil­lions of tourists to the gulf area ev­ery year and the pop­u­la­tion in­creases by more than ten­fold in the sum­mer, reach­ing 3 mil­lion. This fluc­tu­at­ing pop­u­la­tion, mainly spend­ing their va­ca­tion in their sum­mer­houses, puts a sig­nif­i­cant amount of pres­sure to the lo­cal ecosys­tem in terms of pol­lu­tion and the use of re­sources, while strain­ing gov­ern­ment and mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices. Olive groves, which are usu­ally lo­cated be­tween the beaches and foothills of the moun­tains, are par­tic­u­larly af­fected by the sea­sonal boom and con­struc­tion in the area.

An ae­rial view of the Balıke­sir Or­ga­nized In­dus­trial Zone (BALOSB).

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Turkey

© PressReader. All rights reserved.