Cultural Postcards + [Turkey]

Near East: Road tunnel to run under ancient Greek city
The ancient Greek city of Paleo Gargara near the northern Aegean coast of Turkey will be crossed with a tunnel after a highway project was stalled by a first-degree archaeological site, where no construction is permitted by law, in its path.

Road tunnel to run under ancient Greek city
Located near the ancient cities of Troy and Assos, not much is known about 
Paleo Gargara due to a lack of excavations [Credit: haberlink]

Faced with the challenge of not transgressing the law, Turkey’s highways authority has approved the construction of a tunnel passing beneath Paleo Gargara, which will connect the coastal town of Ayvacık with the small resort village of Küçükkuyu.

After the work is completed, Paleo Gargara may possibly become the only ancient city that sits atop a tunnel.

Two of the three companies constructing the highway, Kolin and Kalyon, are also partners in the consortium that won the right to build Istanbul’s contentious third airport. Kolin İnşaat has also been the focus of controversy recently for felling trees prior to a definitive judicial ruling on construction of a coal plant project near the Aegean coal capital of Soma.

Although a very small project comparatively, the highway between Ayvacık and Küçükkuyu has also managed to garner some controversy of its own. Experts have pointed out that there are often historical artifacts deep underneath the surface of archaeological sites.

“As no excavation has been conducted on the site before, we don’t know whether there are historical artifacts there or not. The city was located in the area according to ancient documents,” said Reyhan Körpe, an archaeologist from Çanakkale’s March 18 University.

The construction of such a large roadway, with double lanes on each side, undertaken by companies which usually carry out larger-scale projects has also raised a few questions.

“The master plan to build such large roads was prepared with the passion to construct. This area is not only an archaeological site but also a nature reserve. So, there is no need for such a large road that will put the historical and natural assets at risk,” urban planner Hakan Karademir was quoted as saying by daily BirGün.

The mandatory requirement of an environmental impact assessment report does not apply, because the project was first drafted in 1993. The Highway Administration’s tunnel proposal was eventually approved by Çanakkale’s Board for the Protection of Cultural Assets without the additional obstacle of submitting an environmental report.

The head of the Environment Engineers Chambers, Baran Bozoğlu, called for an extension in the scope of the environmental impact assessment procedure for all projects. “Çanakkale is a region with significant biodiversity. But because there won’t be an environmental assessment report, we will not know the impact of such projects on the environment,” he said.

Located near the ancient cities of Troy and Assos, not much is known about Paleo Gargara due to a lack of excavations. Historians believe the town was inhabited between the seventh and fourth centuries B.C.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News [December 03, 2014]