| DR. GÜLAY YAŞIN, GIZ TURKEY DIRECTOR: “THE WETLANDS IN TURKEY SHOULD BE PRESERVED IN A BETTER WAY”
We talked to Dr. Gülay Yaşın, GIZ (the German Society for International Cooperation) Turkey Director, on GIZ Turkey’s water resources management, on the rehabilitation of wetland areas, and on the other projects they carried out in other countries. Dr. Gülay Yaşın pointed out that it is necessary to preserve the wetlands in a better way in order to fight against climate change and to protect the ecosystem; but also in order to preserve the water resources as well.
ORSAM: Could you tell us about yourself?
GÜLAY YAŞIN: I was born in 1968, in Konya-Ereğli. When I was three months old, we moved to Antalya with my parents. And when I was three years old, we moved to Germany, I am the child of a guest-worker family. After I graduated from high-school in Germany, I came back to Turkey. In İstanbul, I studied in university and I worked in TEMA (Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats) for 13 years. I worked in TEMA during the establishment years of the foundation, besides we carried out campaigns and environment projects in combatting soil erosion. During those years, I was responsible for the promotion and public relations. Then again, I went to Cologne in Germany, and I worked as the Secretary-General of the Turkish-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Afterwards, I came back to Ankara and now I am the GIZ (the German Society for International Cooperation) Turkey Director.
What is the working area of GIZ, and for how long has it been active in Turkey?
The German Society for International Cooperation has been active in Turkey for 50 years, and in total we have 30.000 employees all over the world. We are a development organization under the administration of German government, and our area of expertise is project implementation. We are responsible for capacity management in field of training, for rural development, regional development, in other words we are responsible for each and every subject, from a to z, related to development, implementation and control of project. Mainly, we offer our project implementation service for the German government. What I mean is, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation is our client, and we also work for the German Federal Ministry for the Environment. However, in certain situations, we also offer this specialty of ours for different governments and for the other donors such as; the World Bank, the European Union, Ethiopian Government etc. Ethiopia hired us (GIZ) for the establishment of 30 universities. The German government granted 275 million euros to Turkey within 50 years, and we carried out 300 projects with this grant. Although counting all of them is not possible, we have carried out many works and projects in many different fields such as the arrival of VAT (value added tax) implementation in Turkey during the Özal period, TRT’s colour transmission, and besides many other projects in the Directorate of National Education, and in TİKA (The Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency). In a sense, we can say that, today in the European Union preparation process, indeed, Turkish-German cooperation projects lie at the bottom of the significant projects that Turkey carried out.
What is the frequency of project designing of the “Water and environment” subjects in GIZ projects?
GIZ is quite assertive on “Environment and water” issues. We have a lot of environment projects. Of course, here, it is not possible to give a concrete percentage; but I could say that issues such as; biological diversity, environment and water management is found among our area of expertise. In the past, we carried out some works in Turkey. For instance, we can count the reconstruction of the water supply network. And nowadays, we have had a cooperation with Diyarbakır and with ISKI (Istanbul Waste and Sewerage Administration). In addition to this, we have also been active in various projects, rural development projects. For instance, we established environment training center and consulting center for the industrial organizations in Bursa. Within this scope, these consulting centers have been very useful in terms of showing them how to work on waste water. Thus, I could say that environment and the underlying water issue are quite important components. Right at this point, we have been working both on waste water and on water management. Right now, there are 2000 GIZ projects that have been handled all over the world. Generally, these are the projects, whose 60% is handled in terms of woman. However, I could say that 30% of them are the projects that have environment components.
GIZ has had projects related to the rehabilitation of wetlands in the recent years. When did these projects, which are related to wetlands, started?
As I have just indicated, GIZ works for different German Ministries. The donor ministry in our “Wetlands and Climate Change” project is the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. There is a fund called, ‘International Climate Initiative Fund’, which was created by this ministry. There is a 120-million-euro fund, which is allocated for combatting climate change, and which is collected each year from the industrial sector in Germany. Climate-change-related projects are supported with this fund in different countries. These projects both contain the measures of combatting climate change, and also they suggest the projects of adaptation to the new climate conditions. We call it 'adaptation and mitigation'. It exists in many countries, including China, Malaysia, and Russia as well. As GIZ Turkey, within this scope, we launched projects related to wetlands and climate projects in Turkey as well. Of course, the origin of these climate projects in Turkey is based on a protocol signed by Turkish-German Ministries. The legal basis is also formed by this protocol. The climate and wetland project is the first project that we carried out within this ministry.
With which institutions do you carry out this project from Turkey?
We carry out this project in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and the General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks. The goal of this project is to point out how especially wetlands are affected by the climate change, thus we have been working on which measures we need to take in order to preserve the wetlands. This project has two dimensions, and two different pilot zones. One of these pilot zones is Bolu/Lake Yeniçağa, and the other one is Konya/Lake Akgöl. In Bolu Yeniçağa, the subject we mainly deal with is the peatlands. Turkey's one of the major peatlands is found around the Lake Yeniçağa, and it is also the first area, where the first commercial peat in Turkey was extracted. Besides being a material having a very significant economic value, peat's carbon preserving capacity is 10-15 times larger than even forests. So that, even only because of this characteristics, peats should be protected. Nevertheless, of course, in order for the Ministry to take these decisions on how much of these peats could be extracted or how much of them cannot be extracted in terms of socio-economic balance, the Ministry needs certain criterium. And in our project, we develop these criterium. We try to develop the capacity of the Ministry in this particular. Thus, within the scope of this project, we aim at establishing the dialogue between the international institutions and organizations working on peats and the ministry. Within the compass of the project, we have sent many empoyees working in the Ministry to the training on peats. And in the second project component, we have been trying to save and restore the Lake Akgöl, which is found in the neighbourhood of Konya and of Yunak and Çeltik provinces. We want to take certain measures that would provide water saving. What is more important is that, we want to take Akgöl into the scope of wetland in order to provide the protection of Akgöl.
When the pond is completed, will Akgöl be recognized as a wetland?
It is too early to tell, but according to what we have just heard, indeed, the authorities indicated that they could officialy recognize the area as wetland area when the projects that we have been carrying out with DSI are completed, and when the water saving is completed.
When was the Akgöl project launched?
The wetland and climate change project was launched in 2009, but our Akgöl projects, which are the second project sites, were launched in autumn 2010.
Did your project in Bolu, related to Lake Yeniçağ finish?
The one in Bolu still continues, but it will have been completed by the end of this year.
Are there also other projects related to other wetlands after these experiences that you have gained from these projects?
What is important here is the well-evaluation of the ministerial units, which would follow the result obtained from the project and this work. The ministry will include the knowledge and background obtained here in the management plans of the other wetlands. We believe that it would make use of these, while managing the other wetlands.
As you also know, both the DSİ (Directorate of Hydraulic Works) and the General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks are two different General Directorates under the administration of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. While one of them includes the management of wetlands and the protection of wetlands; the other one includes the assessment of State's water resources from an investor's point of view. However, one thing is for sure that, great missions fall to the both institutions in wetland management. Because in order to fight against climate change, to preserve the ecosystem and also in order to protect the water resources; it is necessary to protect wetland. Hence, as this task is in the area of responsibility of the two general directorates, we wanted to put forward a concrete sample in Akgöl in a sense of cooperation. And it worked quite well, especially the 4th Regional Directorate of DSI in Konya, and the Provincial Directorate of the Ministry of Forestry worked in a great harmony. Of course, while carrying out these, we also try to create a public opinion on climate. Documentaries have been carried out on these fields, these programmes have been broadcast on every channel. We organized a painting contest on climate and wetland among the Bolu-Yeniçağa primary school students. Today, we reorganized the same contest for Akgöl as well.
What is the scope of these projects?
Collecting the climate datum is so important. Thus, when you collect the background data, it means that you also create your activities on scenario basis. And we try to do this, in other words, we prepare a climate scenario for both Akgöl and Yeniçağa. This scenario is not such a bright scenario. Indeed, not for Turkey-wide. We are in a pilot site. Turkey is a country, whose production mainly relies on agricultural production, and more than 45% of whose population lives in rural area; and different balances to appear after the climate change, limited water budget, very serious changes in the current agricultural production, and many factors, which maybe we cannot see right now, will play a major role in Turkey's destiny. Thus, we can say that rather than northern countries, the southern countries will be affected from this climate change. Therefore, as it is a concrete and positive sample for us, we preferred Akgöl. Because Akgöl was a dried lake and it was left to its destiny. At least right now, the water regime of the lake is not interfered. For that reason that it is a quite proper area as a pilot lake. If it were used for irrigation purposes or if there were various external factors, then our carrying out a project over there would not be so sensible.
And these peatlands are required to be covered with water in order to be able to stop the corbon-dioxide emission, aren't they?
According to what is told, if there is no water and if the vegetation dries up, peat is oxidized and it burns. At the same time, peat is a material that can burn itself up. Hence, that mentioned area is completely covered with smoke, and it is secretly mentioned that peat is burning. And this situation leads to C02 emission.
What is the usage area of peat?
Peat is generally known as the plant soil. It is used to grow plants, and it is used in gardens. Thus, it is used in every landscape projects, where meadow is found; and also it is a major economic resource. They extract and sell it, and they earn a great deal of money from this. It does not only go for Turkey, but also for the whole planet. However, in the first place, in Europe they gave a permission of limitless use to this, but now there are very severe restrictions. I mean, now, you cannot extract as much as you want, it has certain criterium and they are extracted accordingly. You should extract soil from a certain depth, after all, the goal in doing this is both to extract peat from here and also to keep it at a level that nature could renew itself.
Is Akgöl project aimed at being completed by the end of 2011?
The “Wetlands and Climate Change” project and the activities in the pilot working areas will have been completed in the beginning of 2012. After the activites are completed, those targeted results or the influences will take place. Such as water saving of the lake...
Does GIZ have big projects related to water resources in other countries, other than Turkey?
Primarily, we carry out projects such as the fertility of waters, effective management of water resources, and restoration of certain wetlands that are on the verge of drying up. For instance, we have a project in the Central Asia on the water management. We have been conducting water projects in 50 countries in total such as; the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Yemen. Because we are trying to put forward the technique, about which the most productive way of using water both in agricultural, industrial, and domestic usage, as it is a poor region in terms of water; and we are also trying to accompany the implementation.
Which Middle Eastern countries are included in this project?
We are carrying out the project in Kyrgyzstan and in Kazakhstan, right now. However, we have other different projects that we have been carrying out on water world-wide.
What is Turkey's situation related to the management of water resources?
Water resources are quite important for Turkey, because as it has always been mentioned, water wars are alleged to outbreak. Of course, within the busy agenda, people say that this problem adds to the cost of living in daily life, but I believe that the water management will seal the countries' fates in the future rather than it did in the past. Therefore, Turkey should take very effective precautions right now. So, it should renew all of the agricultural technologies as much as possible, and it should regulate the water in most productive way as possible. It is necessary to prevent digging illegal wells, I mean, I believe that maybe we can save the groundwaters from their increasing decline, we cannot completely prevent it though.
Because Turkey is not a water-poor country, but rather it is a country, which wastes water generously. Thus, I believe that Turkey should adopt a very serious water management understanding nad she should implement it; but I think that there is going to be certain initiatives on this subject in the presence of government as well.
Thank you for your assessments.
* This interview was carried out on 7 June 2011, in Çeltik, Konya by ORSAM Water Research Programme Hydropolitics Advisor, Dr. Tuğba Evrim MADEN.