| PROF. DR. H. GONCA COŞKUN: “WOMEN ASSUME KEY ROLE IN WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT”
Prof. Dr. H. Gonca Coşkun from ITU Faculty of Civil Engineering, Geomatics Engineering Department answered the questions of ORSAM Water Research Programme during the 2nd Istanbul International Water Forum, which was carried out in Istanbul between the dates May 3rd – 5th, 2011. Coşkun told about the “woman and water resources management” relation, which has recently been brought to agenda in Turkey, and also she told about the studies that have been conducted by Women for Water Platform, whose President is Gonca Coşkun herself.
ORSAM: Mrs. Coşkun, could you please introduce yourself in short?
Prof. Dr. H. Gonca Coşkun: I graduated from Istanbul Technical University, Faculty of Civil Engineering. Then again, I did my master degree in the same university. I carried on conducting my research in Netherlands for 1,5 year. Afterwards, I turned back to Turkey and I completed my doctorate studies. Right now, I work as a professor. All of my studies are on water quality with Remote Sensing and GIS- Geographic Information Systems , water potential, measurement of flow, on determining the hydroelectric power plant zones, and on how much electric power will be generated. I carry out all my studies in integration with satellite data and geographical information system, and we automate it. Obviously, hydrogeology is considerably important. Here, we reveal various GIS segments. There are many subjects in our studies such as; precipitation, flow, evaporation, leakage. The results change depending on the parameters. Let’s get down to our water and woman history. During the 2009 World Water Forum, I carried out a task. I was assigned as the President under the title of Women for Water. I have studied on many subjects for years. What is water for woman? We can learn it, I said. And I learned that there are organizations, whose names begin with water and woman, all over the world. For instance, “Women for Water Partnership” in Europe, this organization also holds the presidency of Europe. In Asia, there is “Gender Water Alliance”. In the U.S., Italy, France etc. as well; but in Turkey, none. The UN, European Council, UNESCO allocate great deal of funds for the NGO’s. When you write a Project and present it as an Academician, it may not be accepted. However, when you present it as NGO, much greater funds could be provided more easily. My Presidency in the Water Forum lasted for 3 –day pre-conference and 2-week studies. I learned from the presentations in the Water Forum that from Africa to India, from the U.S. to Europe this kind of organizations provided great support to the projects, which brought solution to the problems related to water. I learned that they also have activities such as carrying drinking water to households, (we define the tap water in households as drinking water in hydrology) sanitary closet bathroom, transition to organic agriculture, and therefore purification of the ground water quality. The ground water is polluted as a result of the pesticides, which are resorted to in agriculture, and as a result of the chemical fertilizers. Therefore, if you take control of this situation by organic agriculture, the ground waters will also get cleaned. People will grow their products by the clean water that they use in agriculture. This is a considerably important cycle. I have been working in the Turkish Diabetes Foundation’s board of trustees for 15 years. Diseases such as; diabetes, cancer, MS and thyroid cases have increased by 50%. As a result of a research, which was conducted in Children's Hospital Faculty of Medicine Istanbul University, different proportions of pesticides were detected in each 800 breast milk samples. Pesticide contains great amount of carcinogenic substance in itself, which is found within insecticides. We must say ‘stop’ to this. Clean drinking water is required for the treatment of these diseases, as well. Preserving the quality of water is like completing the rings of a chain. If you complete one and cannot complete the other, you cannot obtain a result. World Water Woman Foundations President was here. She appreciated our organization a lot, and she promised to support our projects. I cannot deceive myself by carrying out little projects. We should combine all these rings altogether. Capacity building, going to region, listening to people, convincing them to pass to organic agriculture, finding places to sell the products are only a single ring of the project. Today, the whole world says organic agriculture. We deal with Esen Çay as an example study. Turtles do not lay their eggs over there as in the past, anymore. Because watercourse flows quite polluted. We have received the water analysis reports of the samples taken from watercourses, tap waters in the region, and from the ground waters. According to the results of the report, the waters are not drinkable. When we go to the region, we say, “How beautiful the environment is, clean nature”. Very beautiful places are full of hazard. I believe in this; as women we are mothers, wives, sisters, and we have a protectionist nature. Therefore we can comprehend the importance of such issues more easily. Women should work on this issue. Of course, there is a establishment such as DSİ (General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works) in this country. Along with DSİ, we are planning to carry out joint studies with them. We have to stand altogether. So that, we are primarily aiming at bringing the International Funds in Turkey.
ORSAM: You began the cooperation with DSİ. On an International scale, do you have any cooperation with the woman NGO’s?
The European Chairman took part in our panel. She visited our stand. DSİ’s support is considerably important for us. We carry out parallel studies with them. Many friends, who work over there, were affiliated. We are going to conduct our forthcoming studies together. If we carry drinking water, it should be recorded to their registers. The projects should be prepared according to the regulations of DSİ. Therefore, we are both solution partners with DSİ and also they are our sponsors. And this shows that they perceive what we do.
ORSAM: The region, where drought is seen the most in Turkey, is the Southeast, and there is also GAP Project. Especially in GAP, studies related to women were tried to be carried out. Has any study on women’s being the direct water consumer been carried out, yet? Are you planning to carry out a study?
I did not participate in that Project. However, the Project coordinator paid a visit to us. A headquarter will be created in Şanlıurfa. They are going to form a SuKadınDer (WaterWomanFoundation) platform. Thus, we will have started the studies.
ORSAM: And right now, is there any study on basin basis? Or, do you expect spreading all over Turkey?
We were established on February 12th, 2011. We are brand new yet. On basin basis, we launched the Esen Watercourse Project studies. For the time being, we would like to purify the surface of many watercourses in İstanbul by organic purification. Because there are quite interesting plants. From one side of these plants the domestic or industrial wastes and waters, which contain polluting hydrochemical elements enter; and on the other side these waters come out very clean.
ORSAM: The purification is carried out in artificial wetlands…
The salesman of these plants is in our board of management. We are going to get to work after bringing this project to the ISKI General Directorate. Another Project of ours is Esen Watercourse that is found in Fethiye, of which I already mentioned. Another one is the carrying out organic agriculture in the field, which was granted to us in Zekeriyaköy by the Municipality. With my academician view, I believe that there are lots of things to do in cooperation with NGO’s in planning of the basins in this region. I have already carried out many scientific projects, beforehand. I followed water quality of Istanbul’s 8 drinking water dam with satellite data. I coordinated many projects in river basin planning in Turkey’s different places, or in planning of lake, dam, drinking water. Working with satellite data (with remote sensing) will provide reaching faster and more correct results in a more economical way. Apparently, we do not have a goal such as “we are going to bring drinking water all over Turkey”. However, even a single drop is important. Besides, we are also aiming at informing our people on water saving. It is also quite sorry state that; in many places in Turkey children are not sent to school. They carry water over 5 kilometers away, and as educated women can we say that “We are to blame as well”? If a child is dying of hunger somewhere on the world, all of us are to blame again. People should ask as, “What can I do?” They should be able to say, “Even if just a bit, I should contribute as well”. Most of us do not know what the NGO’s are. I believe in the common sense of the Turkish women. All of us live in this country and we are paying effort to bring drinking water as everywhere as possible without any discrimination on this issue. UNICEF is saying, “Let these children g oto school, I will bring drinking water to your houses.” Women from all over the world came to World Water Forum; from countries such as Uzbekistan, Armenia, Tanzania etc. They received great amount of money and supports. And we could not receive even a single lira. In the 5th World Water Forum, I was the President of Water-Woman Preliminary Meeting on behalf of ITU, and various woman NGO’s in Turkey gave support in the committe. The first activity of our Women for Water Platform Foundation was the Panel and the stand in the 2nd Istanbul International Water Forum. I would also like to extend my thanks to DSI for providing us this stand, and for their supports. As a principle, I prefer working as sponsors rather than working with donations. For many years, in my career I have said to myself that, “Milk has a stain, but I don’t”. Henceforwards as well, I believe that we are going to be a foundation, which would be tranparent, clean and which could serve to the country.
ORSAM: Thank you very much for having your time for us.