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'Better to throw it out on the street'

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 8/21/2009 12:00:00 AM | GAMZE BAL – EGE ÖZYEĞİN

Collecting trash from the water is nearly 10 times more expensive than collecting it from the street, says an official from the municipality. The boats that go everyday to the Bosphorus come back with all sort of trash. Sometimes it is a motorcycle sometime it is the body of a dead cow.

After five years of cleaning up the Bosphorus, it has become difficult for the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality team to be amazed by what they find in their dredge. Yet even they were surprised when they had to remove the body of a dead cow from the sea.

The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Marine Services Directorate, or İSTAÇ, founded in 1994, has been sending a team out to the Bosphorus every day since 2004 when legislation was amended enabling them to clean up the water.

“We were not allowed even to dip our forefingers into the sea before 2004,” said Yaşar Çiftçi, deputy head of ISTAÇ.

Today, İSTAÇ has 19 boats of varying sizes for specialized tasks to clean seafloors within the sea boarders of Istanbul. Seven are called “Ahtapot” (Octopus), five are called “Faraş” (Dust Pan), four very large ones are called “Süpürge” (Broom) and the three others are “Belediye 101, 102” and the “Mavi Deniz” (Blue Sea). The team also has an oil skinner boat and a 2,000-meter barrier to stop oil spills from spreading.

The teams consist of two groups, those who work on land and those who work on the water.

“We have 24 crews, each consisting of five personnel who work from the seashore with dredges. On the 19 boats, there is a total crew of 45 personnel. We also employ 180 seasonal workers every summer for beach cleaning,” said Murat Kansu, an İSTAÇ official. 

The amount of waste and trash collected from the sea is excessive and is rising every year. The total amount of collected trash and waste since 2005 is 145,507 cubic meters, accounting for almost 11,142 garbage trucks. Just since January 2009, the amount of total trash collected by İSTAÇ equals 2,003 garbage trucks. Çiftçi said trash collected each year was rising because of their increased number of boats.

Çiftçi said collecting trash from the water is nearly 10 times more expensive than collecting it from the street. “That is why I would prefer people to throw their garbage on the street rather than on the shore or in the sea,” he added jokingly. The litter increases dramatically during the summer months and the popular shores around Bakırköy, Kadıköy, Eminönü are the worst, said Çiftçi.

Sometimes unusual things may come out of the water. Corpses and guns show that the sea is popular for criminals to use as a tool for crime and get rid of their victims. Safe boxes, refrigerators and motorcycles have also been taken out of the sea. “We are not surprised by these things anymore. We’re used to them,” said Çiftçi.

“During the economic crisis we have often come across engagement rings. It seems the crisis has particularly hit engaged couples,” Kansu joked.

Çiftçi said there is a difference in perspective between Turks and Europeans: “We bought boats from Holland but we could not test the boats there because they wouldn’t let us drop any litter in the sea.”

Kansu added: “But here in Turkey, I poured oil into the sea in front of many senior officials and not one of them asked me what I was doing.”

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