This Post is submitted by Climate Scorecard Turkey Country Manager Semih Ergur
Turkey’s land mass is an area of 770,000 km2 extending from Caucasus to Thrace situated between the Black Sea, Aegean Sea, and Mediterranean Sea with its highest altitude reaching 5150 m. Although the weather conditions vary from region to region, there are (or maybe better to say there used to be) four distinct seasons: winter, spring, summer and autumn.
Climate change has had a major impact on Turkey. More than 80% of our natural disasters in the last decade have been caused by weather and climate extremities. There has been a forward shift of the seasons by about 30-40 days, we have had extreme high weather temperatures in the middle of winter and very low weather temperatures in the middle of summer. Snow fall and rain fall levels have been either unusually low or extremely high. Turkey has experienced a very high level of concentrated rain fall accompanied by thunderstorms, hail, and tornadoes ultimately causing floods, material damage, and the loss of life. Coastal motorways basically blocked the rivers discharging rain and melting snow from the mountains to the sea.
Also, misuse of water resources, combined with changing amounts of rainfall, has lowered the underground water levels substantially. This not only causes droughts on the surface, but creates a significant number of sinkholes affecting Turkey’s agricultural land. Should natural structures (i.e., waterways and river beds) not have been changed by humans, the effect of these temperature extremes could have been much less disastrous.
The most striking weather events in 2021 have been the heavy rainfall causing uncontrollable floods in the northern and eastern part of the country in July and the terrible forest fires that swept away over 90,000 hectares of mainly pine forests in the southern and western parts of Turkey. These forest fires occurred at a time when the country was experiencing the highest temperatures ever recorded. Unfortunately, Turkey has no firefighting planes and was forced to rent three planes from Russia.
There are two governmental organizations mandated to fight natural disasters. The Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) under Ministers of Interior Affairs and the Directorate of Forestry under Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. With the bitter lessons learned from the recent disasters, both Ministries initiated new action plans. The Ministry of Interior Affairs is starting a country wide training program to increase natural disaster awareness and to implement emergency action plans for all kinds of natural disasters. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is implementing a plan to improve Turkey’s forest firefighting equipment and forces including the purchase of new aircrafts and helicopters.
Hamza Tasdelen, General Manager, AFAD
Bekir Karacabey, General Manager
General Directorate of Forestery