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Water policies threaten Turkey's natural areas, biodiversity

Turkey's important natural areas are under threat of destruction and many species endemic to the country are under threat of extinction due in large part to erroneous water policies, according to the head of the Ankara-based Nature Association

Water policies threaten Turkey's natural areas, biodiversity
Last Update: 31 December 2012, 10:45

Turkey's important natural areas are under threat of destruction and many species endemic to the country are under threat of extinction due in large part to erroneous water policies, according to the head of the Ankara-based Nature Association (Doğa Derneği).

Doğa Derneği General Director Engin Yılmaz released a statement on Dec. 29 -- formerly celebrated as World Biodiversity Day, which has since been changed to May 22 -- noting that one out of every two endemic plant species in Turkey, two out of three fresh water fish species, one out of three bird species in Turkey and almost all endemic frog species are currently endangered.

Yılmaz said in his message that the destruction of natural habitats and risk of species loss are linked to the increased demands on nature that result from technological development and modernization, an inclination to see nature as a source for raw materials and a lifestyle of insatiable greed. The environmental group director included in the statement a statistic that every 13 minutes another species is lost on Earth. “In other words,” he said, “There is an apocalypse every 13 minutes for a different species on our planet. What is more striking is that the speed of extinction today is 1,000 times faster than the extinction timeline for dinosaurs. This rapid destruction brings life on the planet closer to the edge of a cliff every day.”

He said Turkey, due to its geological past and location between three continents, is one of the wealthiest nations on Earth in terms of biodiversity. Whereas in all of Europe 12,000 plant species have been identified, Turkey has 9,000 and counting, Yılmaz noted, adding that one-third of Turkey's plant species are indigenous to the region. However, a large part of this wealth is under threat of extinction, he said.

The Doğa Derneği, Yılmaz noted, recently completed a comprehensive study on important natural habitats -- areas that are significant in terms of the species present within -- of Turkey. The study identified 305 important natural habitats covering 26 percent of the country and hosting 90 percent of Turkey's biological diversity. “Water policies threaten these areas and the species that make these places home the most,” Yılmaz said.

Turkey's biodiversity is threatened most by irrigation, drying wetlands, water reservoirs and hydroelectric power plants. “Almost all of these 305 areas are being threatened by water policies. Seventy-two sites are in danger because of erroneous urbanization policies and 52 are under threat of uncontrolled urban development.”

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has been criticized by environmentalists for its aggressive construction of hydroelectric power plants across Anatolia. The construction of many of the power plants has been canceled owing partially to protests by locals in areas where they are being planned, but mostly due to court orders that found environmental impact reports for individual projects misleading or erroneous. Activists say the government has no concept of planning the use of natural resources to ensure the well-being of ecosystems and sustainability, while the government insists that activists are trying to undermine Turkey's development.

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