Conflict's Unexpected Link to Conservation

satellite map imrali island turkey photo

Satellite image of İmralı Island via Google Maps

"War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things" was a popular slogan among peace activists protesting the Vietnam War. And of course, the destructive power of war and other armed conflicts, both to people and the environment, is not to be taken lightly. But in a strange twist, nature has been seen to thrive in areas kept off-limits to people because of conflict and related events--most recently, in the waters around İmralı Island, home to a high-security Turkish prison.According to the Turkish Daily News, divers and researchers have noticed an increase in underwater life and new coral growth in this part of the Sea of Marmara, which they attribute to the security measures keeping large cargo ships and fishing boats from coming within five miles of the island. Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a separatist group whose conflict with the Turkish government has taken tens of thousands of lives, has been serving a life sentence on the island since 1999. The seemingly healthy condition of these waters is in striking contrast to those in other parts of Turkey, where three tons of ocean garbage have been recently removed.

A similar phenomenon has been observed in the heavily armed and restricted Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), where rare mammals and other wildlife seem to be thriving. Herds of animals are also flourishing in war-torn Southern Sudan, where some 2 million people have died and even more have been driven from their homes.

Such tragic events provide an unexpected reminder of nature's resilience--if left alone to heal. In the case of Turkey, says Raşit Kırkayak of the Triton Diving Center in İzmir, "This means our seas can come alive again once they are protected." Via: "Security around İmralı Island nurtures underwater life," Turkish Daily News
More about the health of the world's oceans:
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Our Oceans Are Dying and We're At Fault
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Ocean Conservancy Reveals World’s Only Snapshot of Marine Trash
Loss of Deep-Sea Species Could Precipitate Oceans' Future Collapse
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