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Turkey to lose up to €12 billion with demolition of Atatürk Airport: ministry official

Turkey is expected to lose up to €12 billion with its demolition of Atatürk Airport, which started last week and has prompted protests from opposition parties, local media reported on Friday, citing a ministry official.

The demolition of the airport, for the purpose of building one of the “nation’s gardens” in its place as part of a project funded by Turkey’s Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change, is expected to inflict a loss on Turkey of between €10 billion and €12 billion, Orhan Uğuroğlu  said in a column in the Yeniçağ daily on Friday, citing an official from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure.

“What $2 million [are they talking about]? We can easily say that this demolition will cost the government and the citizens a loss of at least 10 to 12 billion euros,” the journalist quoted the official as saying, in reference to claims that the demolition would cost $2 million.

“It’s very sad and very wrong to destroy a facility worth 10 to 12 billion euros,” the official also told Uğuroğlu, explaining that the cost of scrap copper cables and scrap iron must be added when calculating the loss being caused by the demolition.

Atatürk had been the primary airport in İstanbul before the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) decided to build a third airport in the city. It was closed on April 7, 2019, with the opening of the larger, $12 billion İstanbul Airport, though with much controversy.

Later, the government decided to build a pandemic hospital at the old airport, destroying two runways in the process.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had also announced that they would build a “nation’s garden” in its place, but no move had been made in that direction until recently.

Environment Minister Murat Kurum said last week in a series of tweets that they were continuing preparations for the sapling planting ceremony of “Turkey’s largest nation’s garden,” which is planned to be built in place of Atatürk Airport.

Following the minister’s announcement, representatives from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the youth branch of its ally, the nationalist İYİ (Good) Party, held separate protests in front of Atatürk Airport to protest its demolition.

İstanbul Airport replaced the old Atatürk Airport as the global hub of Turkish Airlines in 2019.

Hailed as the “pride of our country and an example to the world” by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the new airport, one of the mega-projects built under Erdoğan’s two-decade rule, handled 37 million passengers last year, making it Europe’s busiest for the second year running.

But opponents have criticized the airport’s location, which is near the Black Sea coast and 35 kilometers (22 miles) away from the city center, exposing it to fog and strong winds.

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