A proposal for an airport near the town of Kaş has raised serious concerns over threats to the region’s heritage, agriculture and natural environment. Kaş is a popular tourism destination on the mountainous southernmost shore of Turkey, known as the ‘Turquoise Coast’ and one of least developed areas of the Mediterranean. The rugged coastline has beautiful bays, coves and beaches. Outdoor activities include kayaking, paragliding, mountain-biking and trekkers flock to the area as it is situated along the 509 kilometre Lycian Way. The proposed airport site is a few kilometres inland from Kaş in the Çomucak-Pınarbaşı-Çukurbağ-Ağullu area. It is thought that the proposed land area to be allocated for the airport is about 20 square kilometres. This is almost twice the 11.7 square kilometre area of Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, the busiest airport in Turkey, handling over 61 million passengers in 2015.
If the airport project goes ahead there will be negative impacts on historical and archeological sites, including Phellos, the largest ancient city in the area, on the outskirts of Kaş. Forested areas would be destroyed and the area is rich in native plants such as the endangered Lycian orchid. Fertile land that is cultivated, with agricultural plots, livestock grazing and beehives, would be lost, along with farming livelihoods. Parts of Pınarbaşı village are in the expropriation area, so people may face displacement. There are also concerns that residents of the Ağullu, Belenli, Çukurbağ, and Yeniköy neighbourhoods would be forced to relocate. Noise pollution from aircraft flying overhead would ruin the tranquillity of the villages. The Greek island of Kastellorizo is close to the coast so building the airport would require permission from Greece.
Kaş has a population of just 8,000 people and mass tourism would damage unique natural, cultural and historical assets. Major and international firms would take trade away from local tourism-based businesses. Campaigners warned that an airport in Kaş would lead to the area meeting the same fate as the coastal resort towns of Marmaris and Side, also on the Mediterranean coast, and Kuşadası on the western Aegean coast, their distinctiveness deteriorating due to large-scale tourism developments.
A consortium of eight companies, DETUYAB, has applied to the Ministry of Transport and Communications to build the airport on the BOT (build-operate-transfer) model. DETUYAB is already heavily involved with mass tourism projects in the area. The consortium is developing a 115 hectare tourism zone in the coastal town of Demre, about 47 kilometres east of Kaş, including restaurants, villas, hotels with a total of 7,500 beds and a 700 berth marina. Demre has sandy beaches and, like Kaş, is surrounded by historic sites, cultivated land and important wildlife habitats.
Opposition to the airport plan is gathering momentum. A group of local organisations – including Kaş Tourism Association, Kaş Kalkan Patara Hoteliers Association, Kaş Underwater Association and Kaş Environment Platform – has submitted a seven-page report to local state bodies opposing construction of the airport, detailing the damage that would be caused to nature, communities and the local economy. An online petition, We don’t want an airport in Kaş, had already attracted nearly 19,000 signatures.