Category: Istanbul.

İstanbul’s status as world heritage city hangs in balance

24 March 2011, Thursday / YASİN KILIÇ, İSTANBUL

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, center, inspects a mock-up of the Haliç metro bridge.

A group of experts from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has submitted a report on the ongoing metro bridge being constructed over the Haliç (Golden Horn) to the international body’s headquarters in Paris.

İstanbul faces consignment from the World Heritage List to the organization’s “in danger” list for failure to fulfill commitments on the protection of its historical sites. The report on the metro bridge over the Haliç is one of the most important topics in determining whether the city stays on the world heritage list. An earlier UNESCO report highlighted that the bridge would negatively affect the silhouette of the historical peninsula. The UNESCO experts, comprising two German city planners and one consultant from Germany, Jordan and England each, came to İstanbul in early 2011 to oversee the municipality’s work on the bridge and completed a report on the developments in February.

The report covered the benefits of the bridge and the reason for its construction in a detailed manner. It was recently sent to the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. UNESCO rejected a request that İstanbul be removed from the World Heritage List and added to the List of World Heritage in Danger at a meeting in Brazil in late 2010; however, it did assign the city’s local administrators a series of projects regarding the protection of İstanbul’s historic heritage, to be completed by February.

While the municipality’s engineers have lowered the height of the bridge’s pillars to 50 meters, the experts requested they lower it another three to four meters.

A high-level official from the municipality says the UNESCO team is not opposed to the construction of the bridge, adding: “The experts expressed that they wanted the pillars lowered by another three to four meters. After a static examination, engineers from the metropolitan municipality said the height can be lowered to 47-48 meters.”

The report on İstanbul was submitted as an independent expert opinion. After being scrutinized by high-level officials at UNESCO, it will be presented to the World Heritage Committee in its 35th term meeting in Bahrain this year. The committee, comprising representatives from 21 countries, will revise İstanbul’s situation on the World Heritage List in accordance with the report.

In addition to the report by UNESCO experts, Germany- and Italy-based reports were prepared and presented to the committee. In the Italian-based report, two experts in Italy, one Swiss bridge expert and one English expert give their opinions. The report sees the bridge project as positive in general but lists a series of suggestions. The German-based report expresses the positive and negative aspects of the bridge project.

İstanbul has been facing relegation to the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger since a 2006 meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, where Turkey was given two years to fulfill its commitments on the protection of historical sites in the city. After revising İstanbul’s situation in annual meetings in Quebec, Canada, and Seville, Spain, in the following two years, an additional term was given, lasting until the 2010 meeting in Brazil. In addition to the bridge project, UNESCO also requested completion of the “Area Management Plan” concerning the heritage sites in İstanbul.

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Category: Istanbul