Black Sea Floods a Not-So-Natural Disaster

giresun turkey flooding aftermath photo

The aftermath of flooding in Giresun, Turkey. Photo via Today's Zaman.

Devastating floods in the eastern Black Sea region of Turkey have inundated hundreds of homes and businesses, blocked roads, cut utility services, caused millions of Turkish Liras in damage, and led the coastal town of Giresun to be declared a disaster zone.

As residents pick up the soggy pieces of their lives, a variety of experts are putting the blame for the damage not on last Monday night's heavy rains, but on poor planning in the region. They disagree, however, on what should have been done differently to avert the flood.Coastal Road a Possible Culprit
Local architect Serdar Demirkan pointed the finger at the construction of the Giresun coastal road and dam in the 1990s, saying that the road prevented rainwater and water from overflowing rivers from reaching the sea, the media-advocacy group Bianet reported. In a written statement, Demirkan, president of the local branch of the Turkish Union of Chambers of Architects and Engineers, "said that many people had opposed the coastal road as inappropriate for Giresun's landscape and as a construction that would separate the city from the sea."

Other architects contested Demirkan's theory, saying there were severe floods in the area before the coastal highway was constructed, and that the road's effect on rainwater drainage had been considered when it was being built.

Building on Riverbanks a Bad Idea
"The real problem here is poor city planning," Prof. Mehmet Çakıroğlu, the dean of Ondokuz Mayıs University's department of architectural engineering, told the newspaper Today's Zaman. "If buildings are raised on riverbanks, rivers narrowed and problems with infrastructure and canalization left unaddressed, along with poor construction, then flooding becomes inevitable."

Hızır Önsoy, a professor at Black Sea Technical University's architectural engineering department, also blamed poor infrastructure and building on riverbanks. "In villages, people can build wherever they want; then when flooding or landslides occur, there is loss of life," he said. "The public needs to be educated, the possible dangers need to be explained, and permission should not be given for construction on riverbanks or in zones at high risk for landslides."

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