Turkey Sustainability Issues

The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Turkey:

1. Poverty

Some 38 percent of children in Turkey lived in households suffering from severe material deprivation in 2016, an increase of 1.6 percent compared to the previous year, according to a report from the Bahçeşehir University Center for Economic and Social Research (BETAM). 7.51 million children aged between 0 and 15 suffered from the effects of material deprivation in Turkey in 2016, an increase of 300,000 compared to 2015. The highest rate of children living in extreme poverty in Turkey was in the southeastern region, with 55.4 percent. The lowest rate was seen in the Western Anatolia region, with 23.6 percent. The main reason for the gap between regions in terms of material poverty in children is the current great difference between median incomes. The second most important reason is the high average number of children per household, mainly in the eastern regions. Some 70.7 percent of children lived in families who are unable to take a one-week annual holiday, while 40.8 percent of children were unable to meet their protein needs from red meat, chicken or fish in 2016. Some 48.4 percent of children lived in households that did not own a car. The increase in the percentage of children living in families who could not afford adequate house warming from 2015 to 2016 was also noteworthy, increasing from 20 percent to 28.1 percent.


2. Climate Change

Preventing climate change is crucial for Turkey because its region has experienced significantly more drastic rising temperatures when compared to the global scale. However, there are other factors in addition to increasing temperatures that indicate climate change is taking place in Turkey. For example, Turkey’s mountain glaciers have been retreating at a pace of about 10 meters per year. Likewise, snow has begun to melt earlier in recent years, which raises the water levels of Turkey’s snow-fed rivers earlier. Moreover, Turkey recently began experiencing sudden changes in temperature. Last year, provinces across Turkey’s Marmara and Black Sea regions were hit with floods and hail storms in September, while heavy flooding affected big cities throughout the year. Apart from the increased incidents of flooding, which may also lead to an increase in the frequency of epidemics, Turkey also faces higher drought risks, hitting the country from its west to east and threatening the sustainability of Turkey’s agriculture.


3. Unemployment

Unemployment in Turkey is the result of a recession whereby as economic growth slows, companies generate less revenue and lay off workers to cut costs.

The Turkish economy contracted a sharper than expected 3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, its worst performance in nearly a decade, indicating that last year’s near 30 percent slide in the lira had tipped it into recession.

The unemployment rate in Turkey increased to 13.3 percent in November 2019 from 12.3 percent in the same month of the previous year, as the number of unemployed rose by 327 thousand to 4.308 million. In addition, employment dropped by 145 thousand to 28.169 million, with job losses recorded in construction and agriculture sectors. The labour force participation rate went down to 52.5 percent from 53 percent a year earlier and the employment rate declined to 45.6 percent from 46.5 percent. 


4. Deforestation

Every year, 13 million hectares of forests are lost, while the persistent degradation of drylands has led to the desertification of 3.6 billion hectares, disproportionately affecting poor communities.

While 15 percent of land is protected, biodiversity is still at risk. Nearly 7,000 species of animals and plants have been illegally traded. Wildlife trafficking not only erodes biodiversity, but creates insecurity, fuels conflict, and feeds corruption. According to a report by the Foresters’ Association of Turkey, since 2014, a total of 6.5 billion square meters of forest area have been opened for use in Turkey. An area larger than the Istanbul province has been deforested in Turkey over the last 15 years. Turkey loses 640 million tons of soil annually due to erosion, according to the Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats (TEMA). 

In summer, Turkey has a hot and arid climate in most of its parts. Therefore, forests could easily burn in those times. Every year many forest fires happen in various places. At the beginning of September 2017, a forest fire started in Zeytinköy, Muğla. This fire couldn’t be easily controlled because of weather conditions and its location. Choppy wind made the fire quickly spread around. According to explanations that the governor of the province made, 150 hectare forest burned during the fire. According to official statistics, between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2016, 31,959 different forest fires occurred in Turkey. Those fires burned 112,527 hectares of forest cover. 


5. Ocean Deterioration

Some 159 million people still received drinking water directly from surface water sources, which is of the lowest quality in terms of hygiene. In recent years, however, Turkish seas have been threatened by overfishing, climate change, alien species, the degradation of habitats and various sources of pollution. The Black Sea is another body of water that Turkey embraces. Due to the temperature increase in the Mediterranean Sea, some of the marine creatures have started to migrate to the Black Sea. About 85% of the Mediterranean and Black Sea fish stocks have been fished to biologically unsustainable levels. The historical biodiversity of the Mediterranean is under siege, and we need to take concerted actions to combat the loss of biodiversity.