Turkey on the brink of climate catastrophe as lakes dry up and forests burn


From a distance, the white lake in eastern Turkey always looks wet. A greenish residue left by its waters creates a mirage of the hills above, but get close and all in there is nothing but cracked, hard mud.

Locals say the lake, known as Ak Gol in Turkish, was full in the summer, but for the first time this year it dried up completely. This is just a stark warning in what has been a terrifying year for Turkey’s climate.

Hit by a scorching heat wave this summer, parts of Turkey have experienced the country’s highest temperatures to date, while severe droughts caused flash floods near the Black Sea that killed nearly 100 people .

The worst forest fires in living memory raged for nearly two months along the southwest coast, usually a tourism hotspot, burning nearly 200,000 hectares of land. Eight people were killed, including two firefighters, and damage to the delicate forest ecosystem is expected to take more than six decades to recover.

Prolonged droughts and reduced groundwater levels have caused chasms to open in central Anatolia, while an appalling ‘sea snot’ caused by an explosion of phytoplankton has plagued the sea. from Marmara. Fishermen in the area said The National that it was ruining their business.

No less than 60% of the country’s 300 natural lakes have dried up in the past 50 years. The losses are devastating to wildlife and the people who live off the land.

Gorsum, 20, a shepherd who lives in a small farming village next to what used to be the banks of the Ak Gol, said life has also become difficult for people there.

“The sheep have no more grass to eat now, so it affects us a lot,” he said.

“We no longer allow large animals to graze here. This year the snow and the rain did not come and in recent years it was not much. This place is changing.

The Mediterranean basin has been designated by the United Nations as a climate hotspot, with Turkey being the most affected part this year. They say more than half of the country’s land area is prone to desertification.

After a difficult 2021, Turkey in September became the last G20 country to ratify the Paris Agreement to fight climate change, almost five years after its entry into force. But critics say the motivation was € 3.1 billion ($ 3.6 billion) in World Bank-funded loans to meet clean energy goals rather than a genuine commitment to lasting change.

While President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to attend the UN’s Cop26 climate summit in Scotland later this month, there are still no plans to cancel any of the major construction projects the country is working on. , many of which are of concern to environmentalists.

Chief among them is the $ 9 billion Kanal Istanbul, which will dig a new waterway through Europe’s most populous city, threatening already stretched water sources and destroying forests. and wetlands.

Mr ErdoÄŸan also encouraged investments in intensive agriculture, manufacturing and tourism, all of which would have a negative impact on nature, as well as huge coal and hydropower projects to provide electricity.

“Turkey has dragged its feet on climate change for years. There has in fact been a significant increase in carbon emissions in recent years – almost 100% since the 1990s, ”said Professor Ecmel Erlat, climatologist at Ege University in Izmir.

“We still have around 32 coal-fired power plants in Turkey, so no serious action has been taken.”

Phasing out coal is a key goal of the Cop26 summit, but its use doubled in Turkey in the 10 years leading up to 2018 and fossil fuel generates a third of the country’s electricity.

Turkish Green Party spokesman Koray Dogan Urbarlı said reducing dependence on fossil fuels is “not even being discussed” and more needs to be done to help people whose lives are affected by the effects of fossil fuels. spin off.

“Beekeeping is almost finished in Mugla; farmers are in great distress because of the drought – they should all be supported economically, ”he said.

“More importantly, we must give importance to the restoration of natural spaces. If we leave these places destroyed, things will only get worse.

Updated: October 22, 2021, 2:07 PM

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