| UN JOINT PROGRAM MANAGERS: “THE SUCCESS OF TURKEY AT THE CLIMATE CHANGE WORKS ON THE SEYHAN BASIN WILL SET AN EXAMPLE.
ORSAM Water Research Program carried out an interview with United Nations Joint Program Director Atila Uras and United Nations Joint Program Regional Project Coordinator Alper Acar. The subject of the interview was “MDG-F 1680 the Program of Enhancing the Capacity of Turkey to Adapt to Climate Change” which has been developed in order to be integrated into the national, regional and local policies within the frame of Turkey’s works to adapt to the climate change, sustainability and the development objectives of Turkey and the aspect of this program regarding the water resources. Two managers indicated that the applications on the Seyhan Basin which has been chosen as the sample basin have been successfully completed and that this success will set an example for the other basins.
ORSAM: Could you please briefly tell us about yourself?
Atila Uras: I was graduated from civil engineering, and then I received a master degree in the fields of coastal engineering and coastal management. After working in the private sector, I had the chance of performing some works with some non-governmental organizations in some fields such as nature conservation, sustainable development, and environmental management. Both in the Foundation for Nature Conservation in Turkey and in the WWF Mediterranean Program by deploying in Rome, I have worked in some projects of nature conservation, rural development and coastal management in Croatia, Tunis and Turkey. After working for one year as the nature conservation director of the WWF Turkey, I worked as a consultant in respect to environment, sea and coast. I performed in 2006 the management of the Project of sector-policy integration of the sustainable development of the UNDP and since 2008 I have been directing the UN Joint Program of Enhancing the Capacity of Turkey to Adapt to Climate Change. We have been working as a team in the UN for about 5 years. At the same time, I have been giving the lecture of coastal management in METU.
Alper ACAR: I’m an environmental engineer (m.sc). I started my career in the private sector. I worked especially within the scope of the Projects of solid waste management. Later, I worked in the fields of nature conservation, rural development affairs in the Foundation for Nature Conservation. For a while, I worked as a freelance consultant. After supplying international consultancy for the projects such as reinforcement of civil society, waste management, nature conservation, rural development and the improvement of the infrastructure of the conserved areas, I worked for a while in the Istanbul Metropolitan Planning Centre for the integration of the sustainability concept into the environmental order planning. Afterwards, I worked in the Project of Integration of Sustainable Development into the Sector Policies of the UN. And now, I have been working especially in regards to the coordination of the applications done on the Seyhan Basin in the frame of adaptation Project to the Climate Change.
ORSAM: Which country does the Project of Capacity to Adapt to Climate Change choose and according to which criteria? Is this Project a program which is applied for each country? Why has been Turkey chosen?
Atila URAS: The Spanish Government has supplied in the first stage a global fund of 580 million euro to the UN Development Program and then of 100 Million Euro. As understood from the name of the fund, the final objective here is to reach to the Millennium Development Goals. The Fund for reaching to the Millennium Development Goals has supported projects in 59 countries under different titles in order to reach to 8 development objectives. We call them as projects but in fact they are each a great program. The side-expectation beyond this approach is to constitute a platform for the aim that the UN institutions do not operate independently like different institutions from each other, but rather as a unique UN. In other words, each supported-one was in fact a joint program. For example, our joint programs are the UNDR, UNEP, FAO and UNIDO. Among the priorities, the climate change and adaptation are important subjects. On this subject, there are 17 similar programs in different countries of the world. The adaptation subject concerns issues such as disaster and water management which are globally common problems. In the nearby geography (Jordan and Egypt), there are two joint projects. Why has been Turkey chosen? Because considering the climate change effects, it is one of the countries which have the risk to be highly affected. On the other hand, it is a country having high struggle capacity.
ORSAM: Which public institutions in Turkey have been integrated into this Project?
Atila URAS: The UN institutions operate in accordance with the principle of supporting the countries’ development objectives and international agreements through the works that they do. And this program has the aim of supporting Turkey’s works regarding the adaptation to the climate change. The principal state institution of Turkey in regards to the climate affairs is the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. The main beneficiary of this program is again the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Considering the extent of the issue and its aspects that concern the other public institutions, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Industry and Trade primarily participate in this affair. Of course, the State Planning Organization is always the critical partner. They also take part in this program.
ORSAM: What is exactly the task of the UNDP in this Project?
Atila URAS: We play an executive and vacillating role. The specialists usually undertake the processes of the process tracking and acceleration, the execution of the relevant researches and presenting the reports to the relevant ministries, working directly with the local partners within the scope of the Grant program, following, evaluation and reporting.
ORSAM: What is the exact place of the water resources in this program?
Atila URAS: In the fourth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the pressure over the whole Eastern Mediterranean Basin and Turkish water resources had been mentioned. And within the scope of this program, both in the works of National Adaptation Strategy and the priorities of the Grant program, the fact that the water resources management issue has been distinguished and that the Grant program must be in accordance within scale of the river basin are the most important indicators that constitutes the direct connection to the issue. The works regarding the industry and execution of some incentive pilot works are other indicators. On the other hand, in the participatory affectability evaluations and in the participatory workshops that we have carried out in 11 provinces, the need to manage properly the water resources has turned out as the most relevant issue to the adaptation to the climate change. Water must be handled from different directions; in relation to the agriculture and food safety, utilization rate of water in Turkey which is 70% comes to the fore. In relation to disaster, it is severe drought; in relation to the public health, it is the diseases that are contaminated through water as a result of the climate change; in relation to the biological diversity and ecosystem services, it is again the quality of water and the presence of water which come to the fore. Namely, water aspect exists in all the affectability subjects.
Alper ACAR: One of the main subjects of the national adaptation strategy has been determined as the water resources. How adaptation is provided in relation to that; both strategic objectives and the measures which are necessary to be taken for the adaptation and the actions have been described.
Atila URAS: Both the water supply and the demand management must be taken into consideration during the process.
ORSAM: Does this Project have any contribution also for the structuration of the water resources in Turkey?
Atila URAS: We started to obtain important outputs of the program. We contributed by adding the adaptation strategy and action plan into the process of constitution of the national action plan of Turkey which has been conducted with the cooperation between the UNDP and Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Next year is the preparation period of the 10th Development Plan. It is already known that the climate change is a development problem which necessitates adaptation. We think that the adaptation strategy and action plan for the climate change will be reference to the development plans of Turkey. Further to that, the climate change tried to take part in the sect oral strategies, as well. For example, climate change and water usage exist in the sustainable urbanization strategy; in that, the climate change will take place in a way among the products of this process.
ORSAM: What was the reason of choosing the Seyhan Basin for this project?
Alper ACAR: As Atila has already mentioned, the Seyhan Basin is on the Eastern Mediterranean region which was described as one of the most vulnerable areas by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Secondly, the first research on the affectability from the climate change, primarily for the agriculture, on the scale of basin has been done there. This project was carried out by Çukurova University and a Japan Institute. When you look at the region, you can see that the Seyhan Basin is a different geographical place, a region which has socio-economic differences. There are mountainous areas, areas of high step vegetation and highly fertile areas such as Çukurova; therefore, although the pilot works that we did were in a single basis, you can do your works towards three different geographical areas. And this provides possibility and variety to make it a model. This is why the Seyhan Basis was chosen.
ORSAM: What are the outputs of the Seyhan Basin?
Alper ACAR: On the Seyhan Basin, we have 18 quite nice projects with the budget of 2 million dollar. We have very different pilot projects such as increasing the agricultural fertility, how the water resources and the climate change will change in the next decades, how the forests may be affected by the climate change. In relation to the water issue, if you discuss about agricultural fertility, you can see that your efficiency at using the water affects also the agricultural and product fertility. When we changed the irrigation system from flooding method to drip irrigation, we have seen that there was an increase at the quality, as well as the fertility. When you talk about the climate change, you always visualize a dark image, but actually it provides an opportunity for some areas. For example, agriculture was quite limited in the areas such as Pınarbaşı and Sarız in the province of Kayseri of 1500 altitude. However, the weather has got milder in the last ten years and this has provided that the farmers there can produce various products and reach to different markets. For example, corn, beans, etc. The climate change has such an effect, as well. The projects that we have done have provided a better understanding about it. We executed a quite nice work with the 6th Region Directorate of the DSI (State Hydraulic Works). In this Project, it was researched that in case the climate change brings about different scenarios until 2100, how the surface water resources will change. Besides that, some researches were done about the efficiency of the anti-flood structures at preventing the floods. Within the frame of two different scenarios, when taken into consideration the irrigation areas and the climate change effect, it is seen that water deficits will be both on the high and low basins as long as the practices are not changed. We have seen that increasing the irrigation efficiency and application of drip irrigation have provided that the water deficits have considerably diminished. It has been turned out that some measures must be taken in relation to the product range, besides the irrigation technique. The DSI Kayseri and Adana Region Directorate have gained a lot of experience through the works they have done. In summary, in whichever sector you are, wherever you live on the basin, a stress factor will continue to exist on the Seyhan Basin until the 2100, the date of water projections. Although it is said that there are plenty of water on the Çukurova, the climate change will cause a pressure on the development for the next 90 years. If the projections are developed for the period after 2100, it can be seen that this pressure will gradually rise.
When we look at water in terms of basic human needs, it is seen that the migrant labors on Çukurova are one of the most vulnerable social groups. In the work that we carried out with the Çukurova University the Center of Research and Application on Tropical Diseases, we have seen that the living conditions of the migrant labors that we chose as the target group and a group of which had settled in this region are quite unsanitary. In terms of public health, not only these people are under a risk of health as they are not used to the conditions of the region, but also they constitute a risk for the ones living there. And with this irrigation, the humid level have increased and thus some contagious microorganisms can be reproduced and grow very easily. This human movement causes that some microorganisms from different places come to Çukurova and that the ones on Çukurova are carried to different areas. This Project has taught us that. Unless the living conditions of these people are ameliorated, not only as a result of the water factor, but also with the influence of other social elements these people will continue to live there as a risk factor both for themselves and also for the peasants from the nearby villages.
ORSAM: Will the Project of Seyhan Basin be applied for other basins, too? Will the Ministry of Environment use the experience that it has gained there for other basins, too?
Alper ACAR: We have observed that the issue has been adopted more after the Project done by, the Regional Directorate of Adana, DSI. It has made some influence in the other regions, as well. Do not they have any deficiency? Of course. For example, underground water has not been taken into consideration enough, but I hope that in the next period the underground water is as well added with some works to the calculations which are done to determine the influences of the climate change.
Atila URAS: This can be added, as well; the meeting where the outputs of this projects were evaluated was held in Ankara like a discussion session in which all the region directorates of the DSI are provided a live broadcast of the meeting and to which other institutions such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs were invited as well. The Regional Directorate has gained appreciation of all the participators for the work that it carried out.
Alper ACAR: With the participatory affectability work of analyses that Atila mentioned before, the methodology of dealing with a problem in Seyhan on a systematic and regional basis has been adopted by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. In the beginning, we had wanted that our works in Seyhan became a model. The Seyhan perspective can be applied to Kızılırmak or Gediz as well and similar works can be done there as well in accordance with this approach. I think that as this approach has been appreciated by the decision making authority, it has been foreseen that it is developed as a continuation project. On the first stage, a project draft was developed which foresaw that not only on the basis of a basin, but throughout Turkey an affectability analysis would conducted in the light of certain scientific and social parameters, and then a more detailed work would be done in certain pilot areas, and this draft was presented to the State Planning Organization. In summary, we have developed the model and handed it over; and it seems that in the coming years different institutions will maintain this process.
Atila URAS: The fundamental works of the model that we developed, for example the one in relation to the agriculture, were conducted by Çukurova University. Besides that, the sharing analysis, subsistence resources analysis and the ecosystem analysis were executed by the Turkish experts. The workshop of the system analysis was analyzed and reported by a Turkish expert living at abroad. Namely, actually there is a high capacity in Turkey to conduct these works.
Alper ACAR: One of the key points of the model is that it is always said that there is no data either in the local or central offices. Because this is a new subject, and we do not know. But you can determine right priorities towards the local by asking the right questions and bringing them into questions and create right projections. This is what we have done in Seyhan. For example, when we visited the women organizations working for gender or reinforcing the status of women in the society, the first reaction that we received was like “what does the climate change have to do with us?”. But when we started to tell, we could discuss about these two seemingly irrelevant issues for hours. Why are women important for us? They constitute a group that has little mobility. Namely, in case of a disaster, they have less efficiency, unfortunately, to protect themselves than men or to discuss with others about possible solutions for something by going to the rural coffeehouses and chatting with some people. Therefore, when we drew attention to this side, they accepted that it was relevant. So when you talk to somebody of a quite different specialty, you can establish the connection provided that you make the subject focus on the same targets and direct the talk to a discussion away from the template. Similarly, when you talk to a health officer or agriculturist, you can take the answers of certain things as long as you follow the agenda and market he connection.
Atila URAS: We have had the opportunity of testing the ideal way which is to come from bottom to top, not from top to bottom that we always say. We asked that no expert or bureaucrat came while we were determining the priorities of the problem on this basin. The related institutions accepted this, we called the experts only from Kayseri and Adana to conduct the problem analysis, and thus we could write down the local information and those priorities come out as the subject titles as Alper mentioned as well.
Alper ACAR: We had made great effort before the start of this program. For about one year, we visited various institutions in the region, first we told them our perspective, and then listened to their expectations, and thus we prepared the atmosphere in Seyhan. Of course when you go there with a general perspective without any discussion with the local people, you may end up as disconnected from the realities of the region or you may encounter with a reaction. But when we initiate a new grant program at the end of the process based on such a dialogue, we find there a subject which has already started to be discussed by different institutions. With a Grant program which responded to the needs and expectations of the region and in harmony with the realities and priorities of the region, what we would do became much easier. In summary, through the approach of capacity building, a common language was adopted in relation to the climate change affectability. The next step was to become more concrete and decide the priorities. And then after the execution of the implementations and completing the deficiencies of the experience that has been gained, this cycle may be restarted.
ORSAM: Is there a new project which will come out later or will there be a sequel of this project?
Atila URAS: This question must be responded within the frame of sustainability of the efforts. In case of such demand from the government agencies, the United Nation institutions can develop new projects and look for new funds, but actually the fact that this fund from the DSI has been evaluated by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry is a continuation of our efforts. On the other hand, we received a great interest at our relations with the development agencies. They lean towards the possibility that the works in harmony with the model that we developed take part in the annual calls for grant of the development agencies. This is a significant improvement for the continuation of the efforts. On the other hand, that kind of programs and projects usually encourage other initiatives. The wish of certain program partners such as FAO and UNIDO to do new projects here enables that this wish is spread by the wave effect. But the climate change issue is on the agenda, which is the most important thing. We have experienced for the first time an adoption thanks to this program. This adoption of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and this fund from the DSI are the main guarantees of the sustainability.
Alper ACAR: Another perspective about it is that not all but most of the eighteen grant project constituted a model among them. We have a joint work with the Adana Region Directorate of Forestry which aims to find out how the forest lands in Seyhan will be affected. The results that are found there are being integrated into the management plans of the forest lands which are under the responsibility of Adana Region Directorate of Forestry. If you apply this Project over the mountains on the Black Sea Region, you will see that this methodology will work there too. For example, General Directorate of Forestry leans towards such a work. As the works done within the scope of joint program has sustainability, each grant program also can have its own sustainability. For example the models that have been conducted with the General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works, the Adana Region Directorate of Forestry, the Center of Tropical Diseases (because tropical diseases are not only present there, but also in the district of Polatlı in Ankara) are applicable and ready.
As Atila has already mentioned, we both carry out dissemination works for the institutions and also try to share this on different platforms as much as possible. One of the main elements for the dissemination of the experience is the ongoing evaluation process. The evaluation of eighteen grants projects and taking lessons from our experiences has been continuing. Through the publication that we will establish in the light of the information that we will obtain from this, we aim to reach to different masses. For example, we executed a project of animal husbandry with Çukurova University in the regions whose altitude is over 900 meters. This Project can set an example for the other forest villages whose altitude is also over 900 meters. Maybe not directly, but in terms of point of view, it will be able to set an example. This is what we try to realize; rather than saying that this was obtained and that was done in this way etc, we prefer to describe our works like this was the problem, the issue was dealt in these ways and approaches, and these were obtained. In the next a couple of months, we will have the possibility to say that you can also do good things for your own region by following these ways.
ORSAM: We would like to thank you so much for sharing with us your valuable time and we wish you good luck for your works.
We thank you for your interest.