Ur­ban de­vel­op­ment and the en­vi­ron­ment: What is at stake for Tur­key?

Turkish Review - - THINK TANKS - İSA AFA­CAN

Un­der AK Party rule, Tur­key has seen a dis­tinctly di­vided so­ci­ety on many lev­els. While some peo­ple ques­tioned the party’s nar­ra­tive of democ­racy and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, oth­ers em­braced it and be­came stal­wart sup­port­ers. It is pos­si­ble that no area bet­ter re­flects this fault line than is­sues of ur­ban trans­for­ma­tion and en­vi­ron­ment, which have be­come the cen­ter­piece of new forms of op­po­si­tion and protest, most no­tably in Gezi Park The un­der­ly­ing ques­tion be­fore Tur­key now is where the line is drawn be­tween ur­ban trans­for­ma­tion for eco­nomic ben­e­fit and pro­tec­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment. Think Tank Tracker will re­view re­ports and anal­y­sis on Tur­key’s en­dur­ing dilemma on the sub­ject and lay out some di­ver­gent and com­pli­cated po­si­tions.

An anal­y­sis by Martin Raiser, coun­try di­rec­tor for Tur­key at the World Bank, came to the con­clu­sion that ur­ban de­vel­op­ment has been ben­e­fi­cial for Tur­key in terms of eco­nomic and so­ciopo­lit­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. While em­pha­siz­ing the ten­sions against end­less rib­bon­cut­ting cer­e­monies for re­de­vel­op­ment of slums and the re-zon­ing of farm­lands and forests for con­struc­tion, he says this trend is ac­tu­ally good for Tur­key’s ur­ban­iza­tion ef­forts. Tur­key’s ur­ban pop­u­la­tion in the last three decades has more than dou­bled to 50 mil­lion, which makes Tur­key the sec­ond-fastest ur­ban­iz­ing coun­try af­ter South Korea since the 1960s. Raiser cites a re­cent re­port by the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion that lists “four Turk­ish cities (İs­tan­bul, İzmir, Bursa, and Ankara) among the 10 most dy­namic world­wide in terms of an ex­pand­ing mar­ket and grow­ing em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.” Ac­cord­ing to World Bank data, a hand­ful of coun­tries such as Tur­key, Chile, Malaysia, China, South Korea, Botswana and some Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (OECD) coun­tries achieved two de­sir­able re­sults at the same time: An in­crease of 10 per­cent­age points in ur­ban­iza­tion since the 1980s and an in­crease in per capita in­come of more than $5,000. He em­pha­sizes that many coun­tries such as In­dia were un­able to achieve these twin goals, thereby end­ing up with ever-grow­ing slums around cities, a sit­u­a­tion that is deeply com­pli­cat­ing ur­ban de­vel­op­ment.

For Raiser, Tur­key’s ur­ban­iza­tion is a suc­cess story, mainly be­cause poli­cies set for mi­grants from ru­ral ar­eas af­forded new eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. He ex­plains this phe­nom­e­non as such: Suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments since the 1980s have en­cour­aged the flood of ru­ral pop­u­la­tions to cities and turned a blind eye to their in­va­sion of mostly gov­ern­ment-owned prop­erty in cities. Clien­telism has been the prime driv­ing force over the decades, giv­ing new set­tlers prop­erty rights and ac­cess to mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices in ex­change for votes in elec­tions. Since ob­tain­ing le­gal pri­vate prop­erty own­er­ship, such mi­grants have reaped eco­nomic and so­cial ben­e­fits over the years. Raiser con­tends that “ur­ban­iza­tion in Tur­key was thus as­so­ci­ated not only with im­proved eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties but also

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