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Killer Floods Show Turkey Cannot Handle Consequences of Climate Change, WWF Says

Recent flooding in parts of Turkey has underscored the need to focus on ecologically sound flood management practices to shield urban areas from extreme weather events, particularly those caused by climate change, WWF-Turkey said today.

“The presence of deadly floods right in the heart of Istanbul first of all points at the insufficient infrastructure of the city,” said Filiz Demirayak, the CEO of WWF-Turkey. “Unregulated urban development and infrastructure have become barriers preventing rain water to reach the sea via its natural path.”

Turkey’s Thracian region and the capital Istanbul this week received a month’s worth of rainfall during two days–or four times the total amount of average precipitation for this entire month–causing massive flooding that led to the death of 30 people and widespread damage estimated at U.S.$90 million dollars, WWF said in a statement.

The floods follow flash floods in July that killed at least six people in the north-eastern province of Artvin, and inundated more than 100 homes and businesses in the Black Sea province of Giresun.

Flooding occurred mostly because natural irrigation channels had been damaged and unplanned developments blocked the rain water from dissipating into the sea, WWF said.

“The insufficiency of water absorbing green areas and forests in the heart of the city is another factor that blocks water in the midst of concrete,” Demirayak said.

“In the periphery of Istanbul and Tekirdağ river beds have been narrowed down, filled up by residential and industrial areas, thus blocking natural flood control mechanisms. The local municipalities and the government need to resolve the infrastructural problems of the city and prepare climate adaptation plan immediately.”

Weather-related problems such as floods could worsen because of climate change unless ecological flood prevention techniques are adopted, WWF warned. “These consist of river delta conservation and forest conservation. In addition, urban settlements along river beds must be closely monitored.

“Ecological flood management is the safest and most cost-effective solution,” Demirayak said. “If future damage is to be prevented, the climate change adaptation process has to start immediately.

“The current infrastructure in Turkey cannot handle the consequences of climate change. WWF-Turkey calls upon the government and the municipalities to take immediate action for adaptation to climate change.”