Another year, another June 5: World Environment Day was marked once again, for the 37th time since being designated by the United Nations, but Turkey still has many environmental issues to contend with.
Power plants are poisoning the environment, lakes are drying up, polluting factories are determined not to build purification plants, and hydroelectric dams are stopping the flow of running water Ğ all these factors contribute to Turkey getting a failing grade when it comes to environmental protection.
The Turkey branch of the World Wildlife Foundation, the Turkish Environmental and Woodlands Protection Society, or TÜRÇEK, and the Nature Society came together to lay out Turkey’s environmental problems in 2009. The picture they have painted is not a pretty one.
The environmentalists’ joint opinion is that Turkey’s primary problem is wrongheaded policies on water and other resources. According to Filiz Demirayak, the general director of WWF Turkey, the rate of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere from Turkey between 1990 and 2004 increased 74.4 percent, breaking a record.
"Many types of habitats in Turkey have been irreversibly destroyed, especially in the last 30 to 40 years," Demirayak added. "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."
Added Güven Eken, general director for the Nature Society: "Dams and irrigation projects are threatening important natural areas. Especially near big cities, on the shores of the Aegean and the Mediterranean, unplanned urbanization causes irreversible destruction in many areas."
Kerem Ateş, the general secretary for TÜRÇEK, pointed to the pollution and development at Lake Acarlar near Karasu, the industrial pollution in İzmit Bay and the urban-planning problems of Istanbul.
Turkey’s key issues
The groups defined the most urgent problems on Turkey’s environmental agenda as follows:
- The biggest salt lake in Europe has diminished by almost half in 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.