The trustee administration of Turkey’s Kurdish-majority Batman (Elîh) municipality, appointed by a government operation in 2019, is endangering the city’s drinking water and resources by making unauthorised zoning changes to water basins, according to deposed co-mayors Mehmet Demir and Songül Korkmaz.
Demir and Korkmaz were elected co-mayors of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the 2019 local elections, but dismissed by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government on terrorism charges after one year in office.
The co-mayors, who won the Batman municipality with two thirds of the vote, accused the trustees of corruption, financial mismanagement and the erosion of democratic processes, at a press conference in Batman.
According to Demir, who was also imprisoned for seven months after his dismissal, a key concern is the trustee’s handling of water resource development. “The city’s zoning plan, which was implemented by the trustee, violates the regulations for the management of the drinking and service water basin, but is also illegal,” he explained.
The new zoning plan would endanger the city’s drinking water, Demir said, adding, “Moreover, there is no clear plan on how water will be brought to Batman.”
The former co-mayors expressed concern about the violations of land use regulations and impact on urban density and pollution. “The zoning plan in question lacks scientific, objective technical justification… will pollute underground and surface water resources, and transport connections are inadequate and flawed,” said Demir.
Songül Korkmaz, who, like many other HDP co-mayors, was removed from office during the 2019-2020 trustee practices of the Turkish government, said they would keep a close eye on illegality and corruption in the Batman municipality.
Batman was one of eight provincial municipalities won by the HDP in the 2019 local elections, all of which had been replaced with AKP government trustees by the end of 2020.
The Turkish government has been appointing trustees to the HDP municipalities for two terms. Three months after the 2019 local elections, trustees were appointed to three HDP’s metropolitan municipalities. Since then, trustees have been appointed in 48 of the 65 municipalities won by the pro-Kurdish party.