Erdoğan Bayraktar, Minister for Environment & Urbanization, on the reforms to deal with the risks of natural disasters and urban transformation.

Erdoğan Bayraktar
Erdoğan Bayraktar was born in 1949 and gained his Bachelor’s degree from Istanbul State Engineering and Architectural Academy, later getting his graduate degree from Istanbul University in Civil Engineering and another degree from Bucharest University on construction contracts. He worked as a general contractor between 1973 and 1994, and later became President of TOKİ in 2002, resigning in 2011 in order to run for parliament. He is currently Minister for Environment and Urbanization.

Law No. 6306, “Law Concerning the Transformation of Areas Under Threat of Natural Disaster," has instigated a nationwide urban transformation project that gives priority to provinces in the first and second earthquake-risk zones. Due to our country's geography, climate, and topography, Turkey is frequently at risk of natural disasters. Natural disasters lead to serious loss both in human lives and economic output. Earthquakes are the main threat among the various natural disasters that our country faces. Our cities have often been built with little-to-no long-term planning, and, unfortunately, the majority of our urban structures are of poor quality against the threat of natural disasters. That is why we have experienced serious loss of life and property damage in the face of natural disasters in the past. In the last century, Turkey has experienced 300 deadly earthquakes, leading to a total of approximately 100,000 lives lost, 180,000 injuries, and over half a million destroyed homes. Article 56 of the Constitution states, “Every citizen has the right to live in a healthy and balanced environment, and developing the environment is the responsibility of the state and citizens." Article 57 states, “The state has a responsibility to develop a strategy to provide for housing needs that take the characteristics of cities and environmental factors into consideration." This is why, having learned from our previous experience in dealing with urban transformation projects, we have made a detailed analysis of the relevant legislation and consulted the necessary institutions to create and apply Law No. 6306. The main objective of this law is to “transform areas under risk of natural disaster, demolish existing unsound structures, and create safe and livable urban areas throughout the country." This law gives priority to a person's right to life, and aims to provide maximum security of life and property. This is why urban transformation is such a priority for Turkey. This project will be carried out nationwide, encapsulating a $400 billion economic tableau. With such a major urban renewal initiative, we will naturally see major activity in the construction sector and supply industries that feed the construction sector. Local raw materials and products will be used, and we will see an increase in investments along with a parallel decrease in unemployment and poverty levels throughout the country. The initiative will create jobs for many citizens. With this investment in planned urban reconstruction and transformation, we will create living areas that have full insulation and satisfy at least basic comfort standards, leading to increased savings of energy and resources, and, most important of all, they will be environmentally friendly. This will lead to increased tax revenues and curtail the grey economy, while also helping develop the construction and technical consulting sector. The project will protect us against natural disasters, reducing the human and economic toll on the country, while also establishing Turkey's position as a vibrant, dynamic economy in a time of global downturn, and ensuring that Turkey's development remains sustainable.