Pollution in Paradise: Turkey's Ölüdeniz at Risk

oludeniz turkey beach lagoon mediterranean photo

Aerial view of Ölüdeniz, Turkey. Photo: Dan Taylor / Creative Commons.

With its crescent of white sand framing a blue lagoon, the Mediterranean town of Ölüdeniz has long been considered one of the most paradisiacal spots on Turkey's increasingly built-up coastline. But growing concerns about pollution in the area have come to a head recently, leading the Ministry of Environment and Urban Development to launch an investigation. Boat owners blamed for the problem have, however, pointed the finger at swimmers' sunscreens.

"The pollution results from the dust and dirt from pine trees drawn by the wind. The sunscreen creams used by thousands of people on the [area's] beaches ... are another factor," Yüksel Karakaya, the head of the Belcekız Motorboats Cooperative in Ölüdeniz, told the Doğan News Agency.

Better Waste Management Needed
A European Commission-funded project warned almost a decade ago that the Ölüdeniz's relatively clean marine environment -- declared a "specially protected area" in 1990 but not well managed -- was threatened by four major causes of pollution: wastewater management, solid waste management, oil spills, and heavy tourism.

It also said that public participation in the issue was low, a situation that seems to be changing. Local residents have photographed the oily residue on the sea and informed authorities about the issue, spurring the ministry's investigation. Local divers periodically dip underwater to bring up or identify trash thrown into the sea -- bottle and cans, plenty of cigarette butts, and even home appliances like refrigerators or televisions. Noise pollution is also a problem in the area. Paradise might not yet have been completely lost, but more vigilance is needed to keep various polluting elements at bay.

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