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Turkey faces long-term desertification threat

Source:  Copyright 2007, Turkish Daily News
Date:  March 17, 2007
Byline:  GÖKSEL Bozkurt
Original URL: Status DEAD

Despite the short-term improvements noted in an environment report prepared by various ministries, there were serious warnings listed on likely desertification, erosion, fires, drought and desertification in the long-term if certain precautions were not taken.The “Climate change, drought and water management” report prepared by Environment, Energy and Agriculture Ministries and presented to the Cabinet said there would be irreversible damage caused to the environment due to climate change. It said there would be a decline in water resources, changes in agricultural production, forest fires, drought, erosion, desertification and increase in deaths and illnesses caused by heat waves.

Ministries experts said alarm bells were not ringing for Turkey and there was no shortage of clean water as yet, but noted that three provinces, Ankara, Bursa and İzmit, had already begun to face drinking water shortages. They also noted that water in dams had begun to decrease. Istanbul's dams were 87.9 percent full last February, but had shrunk to 55.5 percent this year, said the report.

“Turkey currently does not have to be concerned over droughts as of today, but it needs to start taking precautions against climate change and global warming. Fifty-five to 60 percent of precipitation in Turkey takes place between February and May. This is the reason why it is too soon to talk about drought,” the report said.

It said there was a cumulative decrease of 16.1 percent in rainfall, with the decrease in Marmara 36 percent and Aegean 43 percent compared to last year. The least affected region was the northern Black Sea, where the drop was only 1 percent. When divided into provinces, the biggest drop was in western Çanakkale with 62 percent, followed by 54 percent in Balıkesir and Tekirdağ and 52 percent in Istanbul.

The report asked for special measures taken to protect the Kızılırmak, Büyük Menderes and Konya regions because they were the breadbaskets of the country.

Among the suggestions made by the report was the large-scale planting of forests, establishment of garbage dumping areas, initiation of public awareness campaigns for energy and water conservation and recycling, introduction of modern irrigation techniques and an increase of bio-energy production.

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