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25 ONG from the Mediterranean Alliance for Wetlands and BirdLife called for preventing Marmara Lake's loss in Turkey

The Mediterranean Wetlands Alliance, of which MEDSEA is a member, and the partners of BirdLife International, have written to the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, asking for his commitment in preventing the loss of Lake Marmara. 

In an open letter, sent to Mr President, the 25 international environmental organizations have asked to restore the ecological conditions of Lake Marmara, a source of life and livelihood for the population of the Aegean region, a national treasure of international importance. 

The 25 international conservation organizations, including members of the Mediterranean Wetlands Alliance and partners of BirdLife International, wrote to Mr Erdoğan to request his support to restore the ecological condition of Lake Marmara and prevent its loss.  

“This lake is a source of life and well-being for the people of the Aegean region and is a national treasure of international significance – says the appeal - At Lake Marmara, the situation is dramatic, the lake has lost 98.18% of its surface in the last 10 years between 2011 and 2021. In August 2021 the lake completely dried up. This problem is caused by excessive water abstraction due to agriculture and urban development, neglecting the water needs of the ecosystem. This not only affects the conservation of a key biodiversity area and its emblematic birds and fish of Turkey, but also places significant pressure on its inhabitants, especially fishermen and herders, who are migrating in search of food and economic alternatives. resources. 

The Lake Marmara area is home to 19,220 inhabitants and has been registered as a wetland of national importance since 2017 under the Wetland Protection Regulation drafted under the Ramsar Convention. This regulation addresses the sustainable use of wetlands, allowing them to be inherited by future generations while preserving their ecological character. Furthermore, the site fulfills the criteria to become a Ramsar site, a wetland of international importance, in particular to provide habitat for waterfowl. 

The lake is one of 184 Important Bird Areas and 305 Key Biodiversity Areas in Turkey. This lake is one of the three important wetlands of the Aegean region. 

Until recently, approximately 65,000 water birds were recorded in the lake during the winter months. Iconic breeding species include Dalmatian pelicans Pelecanus crispus, lapwings Vanellus spinosus, ferruginous ducks Aythya nyroca and squacco herons Ardeola ralloides. Mediterranean bird communities rely on the lake as an important stopover for feeding and breeding. 

This wetland is also vital for fishing, but fishing ended with the extinction of the lake. The lake is home to 5 endemic freshwater fish species including: Ladigesocypris mermere, Gediz dwarf goby Knipowitschia mermere, Aegean Scraper Capoeta bergamae, Eastern Aegean nase Chondrostoma holmwoodii and Aegean Spined Loach Cobitis fahireae. These are the species that ensure the lake's Key Biodiversity Area status. 

If we lose the lake, human rights to live in a healthy environment and commitments with the international and Turkish communities would be violated. We therefore advise you, Mr. President, to reconsider the restoration of Lake Marmara”. 

For the restoration of the lake, it is recommended to: 

  • Sufficient water resources must be provided to ensure habitat and ecological functions. Our coalition is willing to provide expert support in developing lake water supply projects.
  • The lake is not turned into agricultural land.
  • In the areas bordering the lake, only agricultural practices that require low water inputs are permitted.
  • Adequate conservation measures are implemented, including the application of Ramsar labelling, in order to provide international recognition and protection to this valuable area for the peoples of the Aegean and Mediterranean.

“We believe that you and your government have a unique opportunity to demonstrate to the world your leadership in addressing the environmental crisis and promoting sustainable development, which takes into account local needs and wishes and adheres to international and national laws and commitments –the letter ends - Instead of allowing harmful development, we demand that Lake Marmara be used as a flagship for environmentally sound tourism and fishing. 

We, the undersigned organizations, remain at your disposal to provide any additional information you may request and to contribute our expertise to support the protection and conservation of precious Lake Marmara”. 

 photo: Ismail Memis

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