Needless to say, water is essential to sustain human life, and every human being has the right to have access to water. Therefore, in urban areas where great numbers of people are agglomerated, water is a critical issue.
In Istanbul there are 8 watersheds, 5 being on the European side and 3 on the Asian side. A worth-noting piece of information about these watersheds is that they are all located on the Northern side of the city where they are surrounded by forested areas. The biggest threat that these watersheds face, as expressed by experts on different fields such as ecology, geology and urban planning, is the rapidly growing population and unplanned urbanization.
The major problems in Istanbul, Turkey regarding this issue are:
- Inadequacy of the legislation and policies;
- Expansion of the city is determined to maximize the monetary gain and votes;
- Lack of cooperation between the bodies that are in charge of the watersheds.
Also, in Istanbul, the upper parts of these watersheds were opened up for construction and settlement, under a regulation called “the balance of protection and usage.” However, a polluting factor, even in the remotest spot within a watershed, can affect the stored water as it travels through rivers and underground water. The greatest example of the settlements that have come about on watershed areas is Sultanbeyli, a “squatter town” that is located on Omerli watershed, a major source of water for the city as a whole, which in turn makes the existence of this squatter town a threat for the whole city.
In order to prevent these instances and protect the watersheds, the planning of our cities needs to follow a carefully thought out master plan which is prepared in a participatory manner and within ecological frames because a city’s existence is dependent on its natural resources. A sustainable solution cannot be achieved if we leave out the environment and sound planning in the process of urbanization, for the sake of momentary and populist solutions, which sadly seems to be the practice in Istanbul at the moment.
Knowing the fact that the watersheds supply the water for the population of this great metropolis, what are the most powerful assets we have at our disposal to protect them (policy, awareness, etc.) and how can we use these?
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