By Ozge Ozbilgin
ISTANBUL Feb 11 A 22 billion euro ($30 billion)
project to build a third airport in Istanbul will be delayed for
at least 10 months after a Turkish court sought further
investigation into its environmental impact, a group challenging
the project said.
A consortium of Turkish construction firms made the winning
bid last May to build and operate the airport, which Turkey
hopes will become one of the world's largest by passenger
numbers and is championed by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
Ankara aims for it to be operational by 2018.
The state airports authority responded to the court ruling
by saying the project was continuing as planned.
But the head of Turkey's Chamber of Environmental Engineers
(CMO) said the Istanbul court had halted implementation of a
positive environmental impact report, obligatory to obtaining
the green light for such projects.
"The court halted the implementation of the report pending
further expert reports, which will mean it being suspended for a
minimum period of 10 months to a year," CMO Chairman Baran
Bozoglu told Reuters late on Monday.
The State Airports Authority (DHMI) said the court decision
amounted to a temporary suspension.
"The decision will not halt the work and operations. The
processes connected with the project are continuing as planned,"
it said in a statement.
The CMO is a professional body that regularly challenges
projects it says may pose a risk to the environment.
It has opened at least two other court cases seeking the
cancellation of the airport tender, which was held on May 3,
before the issue of the environmental report on May 21.
Company officials for the consortium which won the tender
said they had not been informed of the decision. Court officials
were not available to comment.
The consortium of the Cengiz, Kolin, Limak, Mapa and Kalyon
companies bid 22.15 billion euros for the build-operate-transfer
project, which includes a 25-year lease, outbidding rivals
including TAV Holding and Germany's Fraport
The winning consortium is regarded as close to Erdogan's
government, which was shaken by a corruption inquiry that became
public two months ago.
Officials close to the matter said the decision was not
expected to have a financial impact on the winning consortium as
the project had not reached the construction stage.
The project is running behind schedule because of
difficulties regarding ownership of the planned construction
site. The site was due to be handed over in January, but had
already been delayed until July at the earliest.