Environment

Turkey’s Lake Tuj dries up due to climate change, farming – Naveen Bharat

Konya: for centuries, Tuz lake in the middle Turkey The lake’s shallow waters host vast colonies of flamingos, feeding on algae, that migrate and breed there when the weather warms.
This summer, however, a heart-wrenching scene replaced the usual spectacular sunset images of birds captured by wildlife photographers. Fahri Tunku. Carcasses of flamingo hatchlings and adults are scattered across the broken, dried-up lake bed.
The 1,665-square-kilometre (643 sq mi) lake – Turkey’s second largest lake and home to many bird species – has completely vanished this year. Experts say Tuz Lake (Salt Lake in Turkey) is the victim of a climate change-induced drought that has hit the region hard, and decades of damaging agricultural policies that have depleted underground water supplies.
“There were about 5,0000 young flamingos. They all died because there was no water,” said Tunk, head of the regional branch of the Turkish environmental group Doga Dernegi. “It was an incredibly bad scene. It’s not something I can erase from my life. I hope I don’t see a scene like that again.”
Several other lakes across Turkey have similarly dried up or have receded to dangerous levels, affected by low rainfall and unsustainable irrigation practices. Climate experts have warned that the entire Mediterranean basin, which includes Turkey, is particularly at risk of severe drought and desertification.
HaberTurk television reported that in Lake Van, Turkey’s largest lake in the east of the country, fishing boats could not reach a dock after the water dropped to unusual levels last week.
“(We have) rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall, and on the other hand, agriculture needs water for irrigation,” said Levant KurnaziScientists from the Center for Climate Change and Policy Studies at Bogazzi University. “It’s a bad situation in the whole of Turkey at the moment.”
A study based on satellite imagery carried out by Turkey’s Agee University shows that water levels in Lake Tuz began to rise in 2000, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency. According to the study, due to rising temperatures, rapid evaporation and insufficient rainfall, the lake completely eroded this year.
The study also noted a sharp drop in groundwater levels around Lake Tuj, a hypersaline lake that extends across the provinces of Ankara, Konya and Turkey. xray.
The Konya Basin in central Anatolia, which includes Lake Tuz, was once known as Turkey’s breadbasket. Photographer Tunk said farms in the region have grown remunerative but water-rich crops such as corn, sugar beets and alfalfa, which have exhausted groundwater supplies. farmers He said thousands of unlicensed wells have been dug while the streams feeding the lake have dried up or have been diverted.
Environmental groups say poor government agricultural policies play a significant role in the deterioration of Turkey’s lakes.
“If you don’t give them enough money, farmers, they’ll plant whatever water they need and make money for them. And if you tell them it’s not allowed, they won’t vote for you in the next election.” .,” Kurnaz said.
Excessive use of groundwater is also making the region more vulnerable to sinkhole formation. Dozens of such depressions have been found around Konya’s Karapinar district, including one spotted by Associated Press reporters next to a newly cut alfalfa field.
Tunk, 46, a resident of Aksaray, is grieved at the thought that he will not be able to enjoy flamingos with his 7-month-old son, as he did with his 21-year-old son. However, he hopes that if the government stops water-intensive agriculture, Lake Tuz can replenish itself.
Climate scientist Kurnaz is less optimistic.
Kurnaz said, “They keep telling people that they should not use groundwater for this agriculture and people are not listening. There are about 120,000 unlicensed wells in the area, and everyone is drawing water as if The water will last forever.”
“But if you’re on a flat site, you can get as much rain as you want and it won’t replenish groundwater in a short period of time. It probably takes thousands of years to refill the underground water table in central Anatolia,” he added . .
The drought in Tuz Lake and the death of flamingos was one of a series of ecological disasters to strike Turkey this summer, thought to be partly due to climate change.
In July, wildfires ravaged the forests of Turkey’s southern coast, killing eight people and forcing thousands to flee. Parts of the country’s northern Black Sea coast were flooded, killing 82 people. Previously, a layer of marine mucus attributed to rising temperatures and poor waste management covered the Sea of ​​Marmara, threatening marine life.
Although Turkey was one of the first countries to sign the 2015 Paris climate accord, the country stopped ratifying it until this month because it sought to avoid stringent emissions reduction targets as a developing country rather than a developed country. sought to be reclassified as Turkish lawmakers issued a declaration rejecting the status of a developed country at the same time they ratified the climate agreement.
In the town of Eskil, near the shores of Lake Tuz, 54-year-old farmer Cengiz Ercol checks out the irrigation system on his farm growing cattle feed.
The water is not flowing as strong and abundant as it used to be,” he said.
I have four children. The future is not looking good. Every year is worse than last year, Erkol said.
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