Turkish ‘dam nation’ could parch country
Wilco Van Herpen Hürriyet Daily NewsDriving my car from my house to Taksim is a joy every time. I sit in the car; enjoy the landscape and listen to the radio. These are about the only times that I can listen quietly to the radio. I always listen to news channels and often switch from one station to another to get a better picture of what is happening. One day when driving my car, there was a story about the water situation in Turkey.
I was in shock. I knew the water situation in Turkey was not very good but that it is that bad was new to me. In the last 50 years over 36 lakes have disappeared and in the last 60 years an area twice the size of the Sea of Marmara has disappeared (this is about half the size of the Netherlands!!!). So what is the reason (maybe I should write reasons…) that so many lakes have disappeared?
The arrival of the dam projects has been warmly welcomed by a lot of people but not all… The reason of the naysayers was that nobody really knew what the impact on the environment and climate would be. Last week, when I was in Ispir, a farmer told me that from the moment they finished a dam in their region the local climate changed. The winters are no longer as cold and this caused nature to wake up earlier out of its winter sleep.
Little creeks will dry out
When hydraulic dams are being constructed more and more little creeks will slowly dry out because all the water is channeled toward the turbine. Trees die and therefore the soil dries out even more; slowly the natural structure of the area will change. Then there is another problem; new houses, new roads and cities are being built. Where once, maybe even not long ago, trees were growing now houses and roads pop up like mushrooms during autumn and take over the forest. In the past rain would be absorbed by the soil of the forest but now? Nowadays the water is channeled away as fast as possible because if not, traffic will be hindered and houses might be flooded. The water has nowhere to go to then to the sewer.
Then there is the industry. Unfortunately not many factories and big companies are recycling the water they use. The textile industry, especially, is a big consumer of water. Where maybe 20 years ago a factory got its water from a depth of 20-30 meters, nowadays they sometimes have to go to a depth of even of less than 300 meter.
The last reason water disappears rapidly is the agriculture. A couple of years, ago farmers started with the water drop irrigation system. Years after the introduction of this system still a lot of farmers are not using or even not aware of the existence of this system. They still water the land the way it always has been done; flood the land as their father and even grandfather used to do. To realize the water drop system is very costly and therefore impossible to realize for most of the farmers.
Water slowly starts to become scarce and most people are not aware of it. I really enjoy travelling in Turkey a lot but by traveling a lot I also can compare a lot of different regions over a larger time span. Comparing today’s Turkey to Turkey 14 years ago sometimes makes me sad. I see Turkey changing.
I remember going to Lake Burdur. During that time one of the environmentalists showed me how much the lake had withdrawn itself since last year. Clearly visible the lake became smaller. The clay and vegetation that bordered the side of the lake last year were completely dried out. The water was meters away from them now.
I will never forget Sagalassos near Burdur. One of the archeologists told me a story about what had happened the last two years. One year ago one of the villagers who help us with the excavations was eating his lunch. He sat down, ate and enjoyed the landscape. Suddenly he heard a soft dripping sound. Surprised he tried to find the source of the sound and when he looked closer he saw a small hole in the soil. The sound came from there so he directly called for the archeologists and this is how they found the original source that would be connected with the fountain that they had found before.
Enthusiastically the archeologist told me that this place would become even better then Ephesus because here they had been able to connect even two original water sources with the beautiful old fountains. I am convinced that there are more places in Turkey like the ancient town of Sagalassos but most of them will be at much lower altitudes. Since the water level in Turkey has sunk so much it will not be able to realize a project like Sagalassos since the water is gone.
‘It is not too late’
Travelling is fun, especially in a country that has such beautiful natural lakes. The Çıldır Lake near Artvin with its frozen surface. The ice gets so thick that I once did a tour on the frozen lake with my huge camper. Or think about the Bafa Lake, another lake that takes your breath away. With its beautiful history and three islands in the lake you can easily spend five days without getting bored. But the situation of this lake is also not perfect. During wintertime there is a festival being held at the surface of the frozen lake. From across the lake people will come with their horses that wear colorful decorations made of fabric.
And then… do not forget the Salt Lake (Tuz gölü) near Konya. When you find the right place at the border of the lake then there is no better place in the world than this place to watch the sunset. The reflection of the sun in the water, the sparkling salt crystals who shine like orange diamonds and hundreds of flamingos that walk around on their long legs in the lake looking for food or flying toward their night destination.
It is still not too late to watch the beautiful sunset at Tuz Gölü or pay a visit to the Bafa Lake but if we do not take care suddenly we might find ourselves in a non-reversible catastrophe; a Turkey that has got not so many natural lakes left anymore.
My life philosophy is that “love” always has to come from two sides. I know that the nature loves us but do we really love nature or take it for granted?
I have the feeling that too many times nature is neglected in the planning of big projects in this country. If already the microclimate in many provinces is changing by “small” water projects, what will happen when you carry out a big project?