Turkey Report: Little to Cheer on World Enviro Day

turkey mountain lake scene photo

Turkey's natural beauty is threatened. Photo of Mt. Kaçkar by Jean & Nathalie via Flickr.

Talk about your high/low cultural mingling: This week, Nobel Prize-winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, known for his densely layered and melancholy-tinged novels, joined Turkish pop superstar Tarkan, known for his trend-setting hairdos and hip-shaking songs, in support of the campaign to save Hasankeyf.Pamuk showed his position on the effort by wearing a "Don't let Hasankeyf be destroyed" T-shirt. The historic town in Turkey's southeast faces flooding by the proposed Ilısu Dam.

Unfortunately, there was little else to cheer in Turkey as the 37th World Environment Day rolled around on Friday. Three local environmental groups, WWF Turkey, TÜRÇEK, and Doğa Derneği, came together this week to announce their assessment of the environmental issues currently facing the country, where urbanization, dam projects, and greenhouse-gas emissions are all on the rise. Said Filiz Demirayak, the general director of WWF Turkey:

Many types of habitats in Turkey have been irreversibly destroyed, especially in the last 30 to 40 years. In the western Black Sea region of northern Anatolia, 79 percent of coastal sand dunes have been destroyed, along with 85 percent of the brushwood; approximately 1.3 million hectares of wetlands are gone. The rate of water available per person has dropped from 4,000 cubic meters to 1,430 cubic meters. Turkey is rapidly turning into a water-poor country.

The environmental groups identified the following problems as key issues on Turkey’s environmental agenda, as published in the Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review:

  • The biggest salt lake in Europe has diminished by almost half over 18 years.
  • One of the terminals of the power plant at Afşin Elbistan has been operating without a filter for years, polluting surrounding areas.
  • The almost 400 hydroelectric plants planned for many provinces, Artvin and Rize foremost among them, means death for the streams they are going to be built on.
  • The Great Menderes Basin, the primary water source of İzmir, has been poisoned.
  • Bafa Lake in Muğla, Kulu Lake in Konya and Eber Lake in Akşehir are threatened by pollution from waste.
  • Amik, Suğla and Avlan lakes, alongside the reed beds of Kestel, Gavur, Yarma, Aynaz, Hotamış and Eşmekaya, have lost their ecological and economic functions.
  • The water level of Lake Burdur has dropped 10 meters in the last 27 years, and 90 percent of the Sultansazlığı reed bed has dried up.

Clearly, much work remains to be done. But Hasankeyf and other issues have helped make the environment a higher-profile topic in Turkey than it arguably ever has been before, fueling hopes that the 2010 report will be a rosier one. Via: "Environment still needs a lot of care," Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review
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