ecostory 74-2007
Growth quotes: "Turkey's granary disaster"

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  • Underground water reserves for irrigation are dwindling. "Every year we have to bore five metres deeper to find water," says Ismail Uluagaç, mayor of Karkin, a village 40km from Konya. "There may not be any drinking water for our children and grandchildren when they grow up." The wells reach fossil groundwater thousands of years old.
  • At Kalkin the sugar beet crop sustains the village, but it absorbs huge amounts of water. The local economy depends on sugar cooperatives. Corn, which depletes the soil, qualifies for a bigger subsidy than wheat. "If it doesn't rain we can no longer grow wheat. So we grow beet, but that demands more water," says Mr Motuk.
  • The farmers pin their hopes on this summer's opening of the Blue Tunnel, a canal diverting the waters of the river Goksu to irrigate 650,000 hectares. But this may cause coastal erosion and dry up the delta. The priority should be a "complete rethink of agricultural policy", says Cagrideniz Eryilmaz, a World Wildlife Fund expert. ... >article...
Turkey - Environmental developments: (from CIA world factbook) - June 2007
  • Environment - current issues: water pollution from dumping of chemicals and detergents; air pollution, particularly in urban areas; deforestation; concern for oil spills from increasing Bosporus ship traffic
  • Land: 770,760 sq km - not growing
    Land use: arable land: 29.81% permanent crops: 3.39% other: 66.8% (2005)
    Irrigated land: 52,150 sq km (2003)
  • Population: 71,158,647 (July 2007 est.) - growth rate: 1.04% (2007 est.)
  • Economic overview: [...] The economy is turning around with the implementation of economic reforms, and 2004 GDP growth reached 9%, followed by roughly 5% annual growth from 2005-06. [...]
    GDP - real growth rate: 5.3% (2006 est.)
  • Natural resources: the rapid depletion of nonrenewable mineral resources, the depletion of forest areas and wetlands, the extinction of animal and plant species, and the deterioration in air and water quality (especially in Eastern Europe, the former USSR, and China) pose serious long-term problems that governments and peoples are only beginning to address.
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    Copyright notice We transcribed this article for reference purposes only.

    Turkey's granary disaster

    By Guillaume Perrier Le Monde Guardian Weekly 20 July 2007

    The wheat growing on the Konya plain is parched and barely 20cm high. Some farmers on the central Anatolian plateau will not even be bringing in the harvest. "This year's wheat crop will be at least 40% down on last year," says Hasan Huseyin Motuk, the head of the farming engineers' syndicate in Konya. "And it might be twice that bad. The situation is really serious because Konya is the granary of Turkey."

    And this year the granary is empty, and Turkey will have to import wheat to cover domestic consumption. The root of the problem is the drop in rainfall since 2000. The past two years have seen only half the usual amount and a heatwave has been roasting southeast Europe since mid-June. Turkey's centre is enduring average temperatures above 40C. Underground water reserves for irrigation are dwindling. "Every year we have to bore five metres deeper to find water," says Ismail Uluagaš, mayor of Karkin, a village 40km from Konya. "There may not be any drinking water for our children and grandchildren when they grow up." The wells reach fossil groundwater thousands of years old.

    Another sign something is wrong is the level of Anatolia's lakes. Some have disappeared altogether. "At the weekend in the 1980s we used to take a boat out on Lake Hotamis," says Hasan, a farmer. The lake has been replaced by sugar beet fields, sustained by constant irrigation. The village of Sazlik, whose people used to live by fishing, is on the main road east. Fields surround it now and there is no water in sight.

    The great saltwater lake to the north is also under threat. Dozens of species of migratory birds used to stop here, but now they have gone.

    The Konya basin is drying up. According to a UN Environment Programme report on global desertification, it is one of the areas at greatest risk. Some analysts maintain that the shortages are due to mismanagement of water resources. The problem is only just dawning on local authorities, now trying to raise public awareness. The head of the publicly owned water board (DSI) in Cumra, a small town in the centre of the Konya basin, admits that half the region's 60,000 irrigation wells are unauthorised and that "farmers waste water because they are poorly educated".

    Outside his office the lawn and flower beds are blooming, watered from dawn to dusk. "It is high time we invested in droplet sprinklers," he says. The central government has recently started subsidising half the necessary investment and farmers qualify for interest-free loans at their bank.

    But the main issue is choice of crop. At Kalkin the sugar beet crop sustains the village, but it absorbs huge amounts of water. The local economy depends on sugar cooperatives. Corn, which depletes the soil, qualifies for a bigger subsidy than wheat. "If it doesn't rain we can no longer grow wheat. So we grow beet, but that demands more water," says Mr Motuk.

    The farmers pin their hopes on this summer's opening of the Blue Tunnel, a canal diverting the waters of the river Goksu to irrigate 650,000 hectares. But this may cause coastal erosion and dry up the delta. The priority should be a "complete rethink of agricultural policy", says Cagrideniz Eryilmaz, a World Wildlife Fund expert.

    Copyright The Guardian Weekly 2007

    Copyright notice We transcribed this article for reference purposes only.