Fethiye Municipality and the Turkish environmental NGO, TEMA, joined forces yesterday in a powerful act of solidarity to protest the felling of hundreds of pine trees on the Fethiye Kayaköy road earlier this year.
In January, 506 red pines, some centuries old, went under the axe. The Muğla Metropolitan Municipality carried this out as part of a controversial road-widening project. Yesterday’s protest was unusual, in as much as it used the power of words, spoken as if by the trees themselves, to get the message across. The story soon attracted the attention of the nation’s media.
A moving tribute
In a series of short but poignant statements, TEMA and the municipality asked, on behalf of the trees, why the felling of the 506 trees had happened in the first place. They can be interpreted in English, as: “Was this worth it?” “What did I do to you?” “I was only 25 years old,” “What can you plant now that’s more valuable than trees?” and “Was my crime to give you oxygen?”
These tributes were displayed on tree-shaped signs, along a stretch of the Fethiye to Kayaköy mountain road. They were erected next to the tree stumps; all that remained of the once majestic pines.
These trees grew naturally
Okyay Tirli, representing TEMA (Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats) pointed out that the tree felling for the controversial project took place despite there already being an alternative way to reach Kayaköy.
“Even though there is another road to get from Fethiye to Kayaköy, the Metropolitan Municipality decided to widen the nine metre wide mountain road by a further three metres. To do so they axed these trees but these had not been planted. They came from the rocky ground and are a blessing from Allah. This is a natural forest. We have to prevent more from being felled; we must protect them. If this work has to be done, it should be carried out by local NGOs, consulting with the people.
“We are not against the road being repaired if it is in bad condition. We would have said nothing, if this were the case. But there is an alternative road, it is not right to cut 506 trees on the pretext that they would widen this road. Already this has been done in a way that contradicts the literature. Widening this road would only mean a greater risk of forest fires and more accidents.”
Each tree is precious
Deputy Mayor of Fethiye, Mehmet Yilmaz Cesur, said: “Felling even a single tree in the Republic of Turkey is subject to many rules. Each one is precious.
“When we have a forest fire, it is our country that’s burning. Ölüdeniz, Hisarönü, Ovacık still have drainage and sewage problems, cutting the old trees on the Kayaköy road makes no sense. Anyone would think there was an airport in Kayaköy to warrant expanding the road like this. There are many jobs to do; killing this forest isn’t rational. We are cutting trees that take hundreds of years to grow.”
Felled for no purpose?
As there has been no further work to the road since the trees were cut down, were they felled for no purpose? What will happen next? Will more be planted to replace them? Will the road eventually be widened despite the protests? Watch this space to find out.