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Bosphorus akin to a trash can, says Turkish NGO

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet | 11/19/2010 12:00:00 AM |

250 divings since 2005 by the divers of the Underwater Cleaning Movement, or STH, show how filthy the underwater of Bosphorus. The articles of trash STH has found in the strait reflects the various socio-cultural differences of the Istanbul neighborhoods near where they were discovered. A vendor’s cart sits immobile on the seabed off the coast of Eminönü, good luck charms glitter on the seabed at Üsküdar and Stanley knives stab the coast of Kadıköy

The Bosphorus Strait, so beautiful from above, could be equally impressive below, but members of a nongovernmental organization who have dived into the straight 250 times since 2005 say it is filthy.

“Everywhere there are people, there is pollution; only the density of the population varies. Boats are the number one source of sea pollution. Every single piece of trash you throw into the sea is ruining the habitats of marine species. For example, a tire takes 450 years to dissolve. As they dissolve, tires poison the environment,” said Hakan Tiryaki, chief of the Underwater Cleaning Movement, or STH.

STH is a nongovernmental organization dedicated to raising peoples’ awareness of sea pollution. “By diving at crowded places, we wanted to highlight the concept of sea pollution,” Tiryaki said.

Unfortunately, regardless of the beauty of the view of the Bosphorus from above, the situation below is a totally different story. A brief catalog of some of the articles of trash STH has found in the strait reflects the various socio-cultural differences of the Istanbul neighborhoods near where they were discovered. A vendor’s cart sits immobile on the seabed off the coast of Eminönü, good luck charms glitter on the seabed at Üsküdar and Stanley knives stab the coast of Kadıköy.

All right, but is all the trash in the Bosphorus discarded unconsciously? “A truck battery can only be carried by two or three people. Something that heavy cannot fall into the sea accidentally. A 12-square-meter piece of flooring cannot accidentally fall into the sea. There are plenty of plastic bags and other kinds of waste you would expect to find down there. This is normal. But dropping a panel radiator into the water accidentally is not possible,” Tiryaki said.

Most areas of the Bosphorus where the STH collects its data are suitable for diving, and the group only dives on certain days in order to maintain an accurate catalog of what they discover on the seabed. Accordingly, the group is able to compare the differences, for example, across two days of findings.

[HH] Thousands of pieces of trash collected off near Harem

Diving at Harem is a bit different however, as a long-term cleanup of the area has been going on for some time.

STH has already collected specimens from a large part of the old Karaköy seaport after it was moved to Harem. Pieces of trash found there included almost everything from sofas and closets to cables, paint boxes, batteries, tires, pendants, wheel rims, X-ray films and New Year decorations. During a four-week diving session, a total of 11,503 pieces of solid waste were removed from the area. Subsequently, divers retrieved a further 15,000 pieces of solid waste.

The Üsküdar seabed is also littered with an emporium of solid waste, accommodating litter thrown from restaurants and boats, kettles, salt shakers, jars, plates, television stands and remote controls, doormats and cleaning materials. Seven padlocks were found, which are believed to bring good luck if discovered unlocked and sadness otherwise. Other waste off the coast of Üsküdar included Harry Potter books, Muazzez Ersoy tapes, Bridget Jones CDs, shopping carts, concrete pots originally installed along the cost by the municipality and four jawbones, which are thought to have been used in witchcraft.

[HH] Free Akbils at Kadıköy

A total of 22 Akbils were retrieved from the seabed at Kadıköy. “Obviously, an official in the area dumped them all into the water at the same time,” Tiryaki said.

At the end of a dive in 2006 off the coast of Caddebostan, numerous glass bottles, 180 plastic bags and countless picnic paraphernalia were retrieved.

The team has discovered Suadiye’s coast is comparatively unpolluted. In their first dives in the area they retrieved only 11 plastic bags and chip packets, 12 metal bars and some rope. During a dive in 2006, the team also retrieved a fax machine, a doormat, 15 tires and boat parts, however they acknowledge that pollution in the area is comparatively low.

Dives throughout 2009 proved the cleanest part of the Bosphorus was Kuzguncuk. A mere 37 pieces of trash – wood, glass bottles, cups, rakı glasses, broken porcelain plates and a broom – were retrieved.

[HH] Eminönü, the most ‘cosmopolitan’

Dives in 2006 revealed the seabed off the coast of Eminönü to contain one of the Bosphorus’ most eclectic collections of solid waste, which included a city police cart, a cell phone, an iron, an assortment of bottles, a wedding ring, pieces of metal, eight blocks of glass, a set of pincers and a pair of handcuffs.

Another dive at Eminönü in 2008 recovered a car tire, two bicycles, a wrought iron flower stand, a nargile water pipe, a sewing machine, an assortment of brushes, a fire extinguisher, a kettle, toys and a newspaper stand.

The team has dived almost every year at Karaköy since 2005, with the most visible pile of waste on the seabed being a forest of fishhooks. Thousands of lead sinkers, artificial bait and a tangle of fishing line litter the sea bed, as well as drink bottles, diamond cutters, tiles, a tennis racket, a microphone, a manicure set, a radio, a handgun, a barbeque, a barbecue chimney, an identity card, a knife, a Bible and an assortment of wallets, thought to have been thrown into the sea by thieves, were retrieved.

[HH] A dog collar at Bebek

To date, a total of eight dives have been conducted at Ortaköy, with materials removed ranging from a urinal, supermarket shelving, a municipal park bench, a school desk, a two-meter glass rod, two big pots and a ledger apparently logging the financial activity of some kind of illegal trafficking.

Divers in front of Bebek Park retrieved three automobile batteries, a park bench with concrete legs, a spatula, a kettle, a dog collar, a sack of mussels, a pair of pants, a towel and a potato.

[HH] Foça is also like Harem

STH has dived in a number of different coastal areas in Turkey, and the situation is not much different than what they discovered in the Bosphorus. At Altınkum in Didim, four divers retrieved 600 pieces of solid waste.

The seabed beneath marinas in particular is in very poor condition, Tiryaki said. At the Aegean resort of Foça, the situation is nearly as bad as it is in Istanbul’s Harem, with a total of 10,000 pieces of solid waste collected from the seabed there.

Çanakkale Port is as badly contaminated as the Bosphorus, Tiryaki said.

[BOX]

[HH] Something should be done

Many social responsibility projects kill two birds with one stone. A campaign titled “Ataşehir collecting caps, removing obstacles,” launched by the Ataşehir Municipality is one of them.

Begun on April 22 and scheduled to run until Dec. 30, the campaign both raises awareness of the benefits of recycling and provides wheelchairs for people with disabilities. Plastic bottle lids are collected and sold as plastic junk, with the proceeds going to purchase wheelchairs. The biggest supporter of the campaign is the Aegean University’s School of Dentistry.

The International Center for the Disabled in Ankara is the center of the campaign. So far, nine tons of bottle lids have been collected in Istanbul, eight tons in İzmir and four tons in Ankara.

“We are sending recycling bins to campaign participants. If people wish, they can be a part of the project even using a different bin,” Ataşehir Mayor Battal İlgezdi said.

The municipality has so far sent about 400 kilograms of bottle lids to the firm buying the plastic junk to pay for as many wheelchairs as the campaign can purchase. “There are 45 applications for wheelchairs. Normally, one kilogram of the junk plastic is worth 55 kuruş, but the campaign receives 95 kuruş per kilo,” İlgezdi said.

With discounted wheelchairs also being made available to the campaign, a chair normally sold for 400 Turkish Liras will only cost the campaign 200 liras. To date, collected bottle lids have paid for about 100 wheelchairs.

Plastic bottle lids can be donated to the Ataşehir Municipal Environment Protection and Control Directorate, which can be contacted by telephone at 0216 570 5099.

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