Alarming meteorological imbalances topped with decades of poor water management are pushing Turkey to the brink of an avoidable hydrologic crisis. The data speak volumes.
In 2022, Turkey experienced its warmest December in more than half a century, as the average temperature hit 8 degrees Celsius – 3.2 degrees above previous averages. The heatwave was made worse by record-low rainfall. Over the last three months, rainfall totals were 40% lower than three decades ago, and 30% lower than 2021.
Climate change is not unique to Turkey. Europe spent the first months of winter with little snow as ski lifts stopped turning and holidays were canceled. Extreme temperatures have bankrupted farmers in Argentina, sparked wildfires in the United States, and fueled gender inequality worldwide.
But in Turkey’s case, a lack of preventive measures has contributed to abnormal conditions that are affecting millions across the country.
Turkey is a water-stressed country. According to the State Hydraulic Works, the annual amount of usable water per capita in Turkey fell from 1,652 cubic meters in 2000 to 1,346 cubic meters in 2020. The Falkenmark indicator, a widely used measure to gauge water scarcity, labels countries with less than 1,700 cubic meters per capita as “stressed.”
Water availability per person in Turkey is expected to drop even further this year, to 1,200 cubic meters, which is one reason the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that 60% of Turkey’s land area is prone to desertification.
Turkey’s largest cities – such as Izmir, Istanbul and Ankara – have already been declared water-scarce by the World Wildlife Fund. Two years ago, the reservoirs supplying water to Istanbul fell below 25% capacity, the lowest in 15 years. This led the Istanbul Water and Sewage Administration (ISKI) to call for voluntary water conservation.
Levent Kurnaz, a climate expert at Bogazici University, says water conditions are so bad that Istanbul’s population might eventually need to be capped.
Mitigating climate change is no longer sufficient. We must also adapt. Unfortunately, Turkey’s leaders only recently began taking environmental concerns seriously. For instance, the country ratified the 2015 Paris climate agreement just two years ago and continuously underperforms in meeting climate targets.
The 2023 Climate Change Performance Index, which measures climate progress in 63 countries in Europe and around the world, places Turkey at No 47 – below Egypt, India and Belarus.
Simply put, the lack of preventive measures has contributed to Turkey’s drought conditions.
In the last 20 years, 60% of the country’s 320 lakes have shrunk or dried up completely. Runaway urbanization, commercial activities, and farming missteps have fueled the crisis.
Lake Marmara, in the country’s west, is one of the casualties. Between 2011 and 2021, the lake decreased 98%. Once a bird sanctuary that was home to 101 different species, Lake Marmara is now a barren wasteland, and government officials have done next to nothing to reverse the damage. In response, a group of local fishermen have sued the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Turkey’s first ever climate-change-related lawsuit.
Source : Asia Times