Istanbul is successfully preserving its many historical areas, according to an official working closely with the UNESCO World Heritage committee that is visiting the city this week.
The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s Bureau for Protection, Administration and Inspection of Ancient Monuments, or KUDEB, General Manager Şimşek Deniz said the committee arrived on Sudnay and began its work straightaway. He said the three-person committee is led by UNESCO World Heritage Center member David Michelmore.
The UNESCO committee started by examining historic sites where work is ongoing. The committee’s first visit was to Molla Zeyrek Mosque where they gathered information about the ongoing work.
After the mosque they continued their visit with a stop at the historic wooden Zeyrek Houses. Some of them are being restored and there are those waiting to be restored among the houses. The Zeyrek neighborhood in Istanbul’s Fatih district took its name from the historic mosque, which used to be a church in during the Ottoman era. The committee during their visit was accompanied by the Fatih Municipality Mayor Mustafa Demir.
A four-day program
The studies of the members include a four-day program. Deniz said the committee members were informed by the latest developments on the restoration projects in Istanbul by different authorities. During the contact meeting the planned metro pass from the Haliç (Golden Horn) Bridge was discussed and the president of Istanbul’s transportation department made a presentation.
Deniz said Fatih Municipality also made a presentation about the thousands of years old Sulukule neighborhood. The neighborhood is known for its high concentration of Roma people, but they are being relocated amid a controversial urban rejuvenation project this has been undertaken with cooperation from the Fatih Municipality and the Housing Development Administration of Turkey, or TOKİ.
The Fatih Municipality’s presentation also covered urban renewal projects in the Hatice Sultan and Neslişah neighborhoods. "The implementations of the projects are still being negotiated," Deniz said, adding that during the meeting with the committee members talks were focused on the environmental exposure of the world culture heritage sites in Istanbul. After a management plan is shaped the protected areas and archeological sites will be visited by the members of the UNESCO World Heritage committee for them to see the latest developments and works that are being carried out in these areas. The committee has already been to Zeyrek, Ayvansaray, Sulukule and the area that reaches from Tekfur Palace to the Golden Horn.
Deniz said the committee was informed about the Istanbul Project of Diminishing Seismic Risk and Emergency Preparation, or İSMEP, at the Building Survey and Monument Directorship. Afterward they investigated the excavations for the Marmaray Project, which is world's deepest immersed tube tunnel that will pass under the Bosphorus. The members of the committee will meet with NGO representatives of nongovernmental organizations on Friday.
After the visit of the committee is completed they will write a report about Istanbul. This report will be presented and investigated at the meeting of UNESCO commission in Spain’s Sevilla city. Deniz thinks the report will not be negative, because especially the restoration works in Süleymaniye and Zeyrek Mosques are quite successful. He also trusts the meetings they have done with the members of the UNESCO World Heritage committee. "The report about Istanbul’s historic sites will be positive. It is not possible that they would place Istanbul in "List of World Heritage in Danger."
According to the information Deniz gave besides committee members telling that there are some deficiencies that should be fulfilled, they accepted that there has been noticeable development in the works that are being carried out in historic sites of Istanbul.
Important investigation topic
The tube tunnel is an important investigation topic for the committee.
"The UNESCO World Heritage committee thinks that the towers that will be built to dispose the engine gas from the tunnel would harm Istanbul’s silhouette. They are searching for the best place for the 40-meter towers to be built. They should be hidden. The places are uncertain. The aim of the committee is to prevent the constructions of these kind of structures from ruining Istanbul’s landscape and view," Deniz said, adding that the Haliç Metro bridge is also being investigated for Yavuz Selim Mosque, Süleymaniye Mosque, Nuruosmaniye Mosque and Topkapı Palace’s views.