We met with Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Mevlut Uysal in his hometown Antalya for our exclusive interview for Marmara Life. Mayor Uysal informed that turning on the Marmara Sea clean for future generations to benefit as clean source was among his priorities, adding: “The action by municipalities that come together to act according to a common plan will be more efficient than taking individual action. Surely others may work on projects to clean the Marmara Sea however the institution that will conduct the best effort will be Marmara Union of Municipalities.”
Who is Mevlut Uysal? We first met you as Mayor of Basaksehir and now you are IMM Mayor, but that’s the extent to our knowledge about you. Could you please talk about yourself a bit?
I graduated high school in a village of Alanya and moved to Istanbul for higher education, a well known metropolitan story. In 1983 I was placed in Istanbul University Law School upon graduation I started my private law practice. I took on duty in all elections since 1984. We are four siblings and our father passed away when I was only a year old, we came all this way with the benediction of our mother. Although uneducated my mother schooled three of her children and the one that was not schooled stayed at the village and became mayor to our village. In 2009 when Basaksehir and Bahcesehir merged and became one county I was elected “Basaksehir Mayor” at the 29 March local elections. And now with the power of the same benediction I continue to serve all Istanbulites.
What can you say about the projects that you will conduct in Istanbul in the coming term?
The permanent population of Istanbul has gone over 15 million. When we consider the daily domestic and international visitors it adds up to 17-18 million. There is no other city in the world of 100 kilometers in length and 20 kilometers in width with over 15 million citizens, transportation is physically difficult. Therefore the highest amount of investment in Istanbul is made for transportation. We also work to start the “Smart City Governance Model”. We have an office established to keep track of this issue and we have a heavy agenda. Currently Internet is in every aspect of our lives and anything we consider to be smart is related to the Internet. Therefore I target delivering fiber optic connection to all houses in Istanbul. Once we realize this we will continue to do so many other things. In fact we do have duties beyond the routine municipal services, in a way we shape future cities.Visualizing how it would be, organization of efforts to realize the visions is among our duties. In this context IMM is one that has the dynamism to take the lead in Turkey for other municipalities.
WE VALUE THE DYNAMISM AND PERSPECTIVE OF THE YOUNG!
Although Istanbul is an ancient city it is also very dynamic, lively and has high number of young citizens. How are you getting on with the young population?
We are in good relations with young citizens. Our Youth Council has approximately one million members. We support their projects, sports events, artistic efforts and many other events and activities. We have programs that provide coding training. Surely connection to our youth is not limited to this. Istanbul is highly populated by University students. We will enable young people with ideas to contribute to city administration. We evaluate all suggestions carefully. As one who has been at work since youth I highly value the dynamism and perspective of the young generation. Youth is of great importance to us.
You are also the chairman of Marmara Municipalities Union, what would you like to share about the cleanliness of the Marmara Sea?
Well, we hope to duly achieve our duty in this aspect as well. We know the problems of municipal work. We are discussing the contribution we can have to the solution of the problems as MMU. As you already know the target behind the establishment of the Marmara Municipalities Union is the prevention of pollution of the Marmara Sea, we are not too late about it. When we take look at the motility at sea we can see that precautions need to continue. You may remember there was the issue of the Golden Horn not so long ago in Istanbul, is was polluted and during the time when our President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor cleaning efforts were planned and it was cleaned. Well yes it was cleaned but the expense, the work-hours spent and the total effort for the cleaning could have been spent for the prevention of the pollution of the Golden Horn then there wouldn’t have been such a hustle for the cleaning. If the primary purpose of the establishment of the MMU is such, then we need to look back at all our efforts and make the prevention of the pollution of the Marmara Sea the focus of our efforts. Surely there are nice things done, but I rather appreciate things never done before then those that can be done by anyone. The act of joining forces of the municipalities to get things done would be much more efficient than individual efforts by municipalities. Everyone may surely be part of the cleaning of the Marmara Sea however the institution to do the best work will be MMU without a doubt.
Water is civilization it surely is an important element of beauty if it flows through the city. Could you mention stream treatments?
Nature has its balance. This balance is: natural events have natural cycles of 100-500 years. With increase of rain fall surely the water flow of streams need to be reviewed. Stream front barriers are made to manage the rainwater flow towards the sea without disturbing the public through flooding and disaster. These efforts are conducted taking into account the disasters dating back 100-200 and even 500 years. So it could be said that “there will be heavy rainfall a century ahead and the water will be flooding for 2 hours. We will make room for that water. Rather than making it a gray cement structure we can turn it into a recreational area. We can preserve this place as 500 year old facility to hold water as well as a place for the public to spend some fun time. We want this place to be a popular spot for the public with cyclists, joggers and others who like to exercise. There are such examples around the world, we can also work on the treatment of the areas as such and preserve them in style.
You were elected the most nephalist politician…
During my time as Mayor in Basaksehir we started centers to help fight against addiction with the Green Crescent. Upon becoming Metropolitan Mayor we started similar efforts in 3 counties. In my opinion the process and fight against addiction of our youth and children is not something one can achieve individually. There needs to be cooperation and everyone should be supportive of the Green Crescent. Among those who need to provide the highest support are the municipalities. Personally I believe to have done my duty in this matter. However we also need to consider that there are 39 counties in Istanbul and if there was a center in every county then the Green Crescent could make a difference. Cleaning someone’s addiction is extremely difficult, centers need to be opened and take action before the addiction, in case an individual could not be reached out to before the addiction than they need to reach out while still new. I guess I was awarded the title because I was the mayor to start this. I am sure we will have municipalities to do better than what I have started.
*This article was published in the July-August issue of Marmara Life.