. . that what you say I cannot hear! A variation on ‘Deeds speak louder than words!’
(recovered from Archers of Okçular blog first posted 20.01.2013)
Here in Turkey I am lucky enough to live in a country that is so enthusiastic about protecting its natural environment that it has probably signed up to more treaties, conventions, agreements and memorandums of understanding than any other on the planet. Turkey ‘Talks the Talk’ like few others. The obverse of the coin, ‘Walking the Walk’ leaves something to be desired!
It would be more accurate to say that ‘Money Talks and Walks the Walk’ – in 16 years of living here I have seen example after example. I want to stress that Turkey is no better and no worse than most other countries around the world – greed, ‘primitive accumulation’ lies at the heart of the economic system; a system that commodifies everything – including the environment! If tiresome protection laws get in the way of the ‘fast buck’ then they are to be ignored, rescinded or bribed away.
The small town of Dalyan is a case in point; it sits at the heart of Turkey’s very first Specially Protected Area – the setting is stunning! Carian tombs, mountain views, amazing beach and Loggerhead Turtles, the potential for exploitation was enormous and so exploited it was!
These days the attractive old houses have been demolished and replaced by concrete. Great swathes of once beautiful countryside are covered in villas that stand empty much of the year. Unregulated development means an excess of hotels, pansions, restaurants, fashion shops, boats on the river, etc., all chasing too few customers to make a decent living. The once magnificent reed beds of the Dalyan canal and delta are gone, replaced by sedge due to salination because of excessive fresh water extraction. Inadequate infrastructure means some parts of the town stink of raw sewage in the summer.
Tourists are now guaranteed to see endangered Caretta caretta turtles as the captains have taken to baiting them with kitchen scraps on fishing lines so they hang around instead of going off and living a natural life. Many are injured or killed by boat propellers, some have bitten tourists and had to go for ‘rehabilitation’. Much of what once drew visitors to the town has now gone – exploited away, and no amount of fancy floodlight illumination of the Carian Tombs or plastic turtles in the park will bring it back.
Another case in point is the Lycian Way – Turkey’s first long distance walking route.
Pioneered by Kate Clow, the route begins at Hisarönü near Fethiye in the west and ends, 500kms later, at Hisarçandır 25kms short of Antalya in the east. In between lies some of the most beautiful, rugged and unspoilt countryside to be found anywhere along Turkey’s Turquoise Coast – but, for how long? Truth be told, Turkey gets a lot of prestige but very little money out of the Lycian Way. The Lycian Way will never really be an income generating asset – unless that is it can be turned into a commodity!
‘Tadaaaa!’ Welcome to the future as Ölüdeniz Belediyesi (local council) blithely drives the thin end of a very big wedge under its end of this world famous, world class walk. How? By granting permission, admittedly together with the Environmental Agency for hotel development on the first few hundred metres of the route, and then allowing the bulldozing of the ancient path to make way for the standard, 7mt wide, access road.
It won’t stop there of course, it never does. There will be others anxious to give tourists access to this most beautiful, rugged and unspoilt path by building hotels, swimming pools and restaurants (whilst making a little honest income, of course). And they’ll be ready to grease the odd palm to do so! Just as has happened at Hasankeyf and so many other places money will trump ÇET (environmental impact) reports and the earth-moving machines will be in before you can organise a protest group. The damage will be done, shoulders will be shrugged and the wedge will get another surreptitious tap or two from the bulldozer.
One day those who jumped on the bandwagon will wake up and realise that the very things that drew visitors to the area have disappeared along with the visitors. There will be much wringing of hands and midnight flits; the once snazzy ‘butik’ hotels will become sleazy flop-houses as overheads outstrip income. I predict that the ‘patient’ will straight-line within a few years. The Lycian Way, one of Turkey’s genuine, long-term assets will have been ‘Dalyanised’ and no amount of green fluorescent strip lighting or plastic palm trees will bring it back.
Mass tourism, that ‘pile-it-high flog-it-cheap’ commodity has had its day and is declining rapidly. Unless the politicos, local and national, wake up to the real worth of this beautiful, historic country that they have inherited, and start to protect and defend that worth then sustainable tourism is finished. Not in my lifetime, it’s too late for people my age, but what about your grandchildren Başkan – don’t they deserve something better than the ‘fast buck’ you are offering now?
Alan in Okçular