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Any ideas on how to keep Turkey tidy and clean?

Editor of South Weekly | 11/22/2010 12:00:00 AM | BELGİN AKALTAN

A previous article about rubbish in Turkey has readers talking about how bad the country's garbage problem is.

It was our writer from Fethiye, John Laughland, who pointed out to the widespread garbage all around Turkey in his Nov. 1 Southbound column, titled, “Please Turkey, could we tidy up a little?”

Laughland wrote it was not wholly the fault of Turkish people. He said it was so until about 10 years ago, but now, the tourists share a significant proportion of the blame.

He also pointed out that, “Just a few miles across the Aegean, our Greek neighbors keep their small villages pristine with their whitewashed walls and even whitewashed steps climbing their steep mountain streets; most of all though, they, generally-speaking, deposit their rubbish where they are supposed to and not in the street or onto the nearby mountain.”

One reader nicknamed H. Kemal from the U.K. said, “We have an organization called ‘Tidy Britain Group,’ with royal patronage. We have ‘on the spot fines,’ even if you drop a cigarette butt. We have council litter wardens who go around inspecting dumped rubbish in the street, trying to find clues of who might have discarded their rubbish. Despite all these measures, people still litter the streets of London. There is an army of determined road sweepers, but despite their valiant efforts, it really doesn't take too long for the litterbugs to drop their discarded lunches and half eaten sweets in the streets,” and he asks, “How much more can a government do?” 

Another commenter nicked “harman” suggests making those who litter clean their own trash plus making them clean loads of other trash. Harman also suggests that despite human rights issue, the litterers should be presented to the local community as trash makers. “This may work better than just an anonymous fine.” 

David. S, from Istanbul, has a very good observation: “No tourists use the Belgrade Forest north of Istanbul and yet at the end of each weekend it looks like a municipal dumpsite. The same applies to the forests and beaches around Kilyos. People leave their picnic waste everywhere, without even a second's thought about taking it home. Yes, there are litterers in other countries, and yes London can be filthy too, but nothing I've seen anywhere matches the selfish attitude of those who think anywhere outside of their home is a rubbish bin.”

An expat, Aa Vee says this issue has gained her attention frequently during her 7.5 years lived in Turkey: “Everyday I see people from any social classes or occupations throwing the garbage in their hands straight on the road. I have seen people throwing garbage bags out of the windows, obviously being lazy to take those down next to the roadside points to be collected by the service. I've seen how fathers and mothers ‘teach’ their offspring by abandoning newspapers and picnic waste to where they have decided to have their air-polluting grill-driven family barbeque-next to a garbage bin. I've seen Bosphorus restaurants disposing their waste straight into the Bosphorus.”

Cem Hanley, after having lived here 11 years, has his own solution: he refuses to stress himself out by going to nice places like forests, mountains and rural picnic areas. “The amount of rubbish lying around is awful. When I go to Olimpus beach in Antalya, I only see a ‘Rubbish Beach.’ Same with Köprülü Canyon near Manavgat. I see a Rubbish Canyon. Kızılcahamam Forest north of Ankara. Guess what I saw? A Rubbish Forest. Driving through so called ‘sophisticated’ Karşıyaka in İzmir, you will see a man in a nice car empty his ash tray out onto the road at traffic lights. I took my pal from the U.S. to a few nice places in Antalya. ‘Come to Turkey and see our rubbish,’ he said. It was everywhere. We should ridicule litterers on TV and then fine them.”  

There must be a cultural flaw, lack of proper education, selfishness, no sense of belonging to the city, some nomad genes, all mixed together. Maybe several more other factors. We will continue talking about this topic.

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