Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which has been in power since 2002, has not cut down trees in Turkey but rather has planted many.
“We have not been a government that cut down trees but one that planted them,” he said in a speech on the occasion of World Urbanism Day marked on Nov. 8.
The Turkish president’s remarks come in stark contrast to statements from his own ministers who earlier announced the number of trees felled for Erdoğan’s mega construction projects.
For instance, then-Environment and Urban Planning Minister Veysel Eroğlu announced, in response to a parliamentary question from an opposition deputy in 2013, that a total of 381,096 trees would be cut down to make room for the construction of a third bridge over the Bosporus in İstanbul that was opened in August 2016.
The same minister revealed back then that 2,330,012 trees would be cut down for the construction of a third airport in İstanbul, another of Erdoğan’s mega projects. The third airport, whose construction has been marred by the protests of workers who complain about poor safety conditions, was officially opened by Erdoğan last month.
Environmental organizations have long been drawing attention to the damage to the environment inflicted by Erdoğan’s mega projects, saying that Turkey has lost significant amount of green space during AKP rule.