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Please Turkey, could we tidy up a little?

Contributor from Fethiye | 11/1/2010 12:00:00 AM | JOHN LAUGHLAND

Turkey, at least in these parts, is very untidy indeed. Just a few miles across the Aegean, our Greek neighbors keep their small villages pristine.

Rubbish! It’s not wholly the fault of Turkish people. It was so until about 10 years ago but the tourists now share a significant proportion of the blame.

Turkey, at least in these parts, is very untidy indeed. 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.

I think that the first blame must go to the Turkish municipalities for not having a public dumping ground for such things as an old sofa, or armchair or building rubble. Into the forest with it! Next to blame are the Turkish families who are simply unaware that plastic bags full of picnic residue cast to the roadside is not making their country any more attractive to visitors or indeed to many of their own citizens.

Last but not least come the tourists. For several reasons, the class of tourist attracted to the south coast of Turkey has lowered in recent years and the local people have embraced the cultural “values” of the current visitors. They offer cocktails with sexually explicit names, “chip butties” and big-screen TVs in bars and restaurants which feature “English Premier League.” The nearest many of the new class of tourists come to getting out and about in this beautiful country is to sign up for a jeep safari or a quad-bike tour. They invariably depart with full water bottles and very often indeed return with no bottles at all; they are all at our roadsides.

So, what might be done to improve this situation? The first thing that comes to mind is education. Education in the schools would be a very good start but education via the all-persuasive tool of television would be, in my opinion, the most powerful weapon. Teach the folk that in the long-term cleanliness and the beauty of the country, both in our towns and our villages is in the best interest of the country as a whole and ultimately in the best interest of themselves, the citizens.

Following education comes legislation. Illegal dumping of significant waste must not only be made illegal if it is not so already, but it must be enforced; similarly littering. Now I have never asked a Turkish police officer whether he considers it his duty to apprehend a litterer or to investigate a dumped heap of building materials, but I am very sure I know what the answer would be. “Not my job.” Whose job is it then? Not the gendarmerie or the army for sure and certainly not the gentlemen of the municipality in their smart suites. If I pass a heap of dumped broken bathroom tiles on the outskirts of our village, I could, had I the guts, discover from which house they had come within hours. Come on cops, where are you?

Last and not least, might not the municipality insist that the chaps who dig up the roads to fix pipes and cables properly reinstate the road when they have finished? If the road was surfaced with concrete sets insist that they are properly relaid, not just thrown at the backfilled surface? And just by the way, why not start the roadwork this month rather than wait until March?

* John Laughland is a retired civil engineer who sailed to Turkey 23 years ago and is now a freelance journalist. 

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