Turkey vows to go ahead with new airport despite court order

February 12, 2014 - 6:23:45 am

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy during a press conference after their meeting in Ankara yesterday.

ISTANBUL: Turkey vowed yesterday to press ahead with building what could become one of the world’s busiest airports in defiance of a court order halting the project over environmental concerns.

A court last month suspended work on Istanbul’s third airport after local residents and environmental groups filed a lawsuit arguing that the project would cause serious damage to the environment, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.

But Transport Minister Lutfi Elvan said the suspension would not interfere with construction of the airport in a heavily forested area near Terkos Lake, 50km north of Istanbul.

“This was a decision only for a temporary suspension pending the environmental impact approval report. In no way will it affect the construction of the airport,” Elvan told reporters.

Environment and Urban Development Minister Idris Gulluce said his ministry would appeal the decision, saying “we believe that there is a factual mistake”, without elaborating.

“No one should come to the conclusion that the airport (construction) will be prevented and Turkey’s world-famous project will be halted,” he said.

The court requested an expert report on construction plans and is expected to make a final decision on the fate of the project within a year.

The Cengiz-Kolin-Limak-Mapa-Kalyon Consortium, a Turkish joint venture, won a tender for the project last May after bidding ¤22bn ($30bn) for a 25-year lease to build and operate the planned airport.

The first stage of construction is set for completion in four years, and the facility is projected to handle 150 million passengers a year when fully operational in 2018.

Istanbul’s main Ataturk airport is fast reaching capacity, having seen a record 16.7 percent jump in passenger numbers in 2012, indicating that the new airport could turn the city into a major aviation hub.

The increase was the largest in Europe that year, according to the International Air Transport Authority (IATA).

Istanbul’s second airport Sabiha Gokcen, which began operations in 2001, has eased some of the pressure on Ataturk.

The third airport in Turkey’s largest city aims to rival Dubai’s Al Maktoum International airport, which opened in October last year and is expected eventually to accommodate 160 million passengers a year.AFP

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