Cablegate: Turkey Makes Good Progress with Limited Resources

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O.12958: N/A

1. Summary. With 71 wetlands of "international importance,"
175 lowland wetlands and 1,000 alpine wetlands, Turkey hosts
one of the most significant collections of wetlands in
Europe and the Middle East. The development of its first
five-year national plan and the implementation of its first
wetlands regulation represent recent impressive progress in
Turkey's wetlands management. GOT also established a
national commission and blocked several projects that would
have negatively affected its wetlands. But the missing
elements are huge -- private sector involvement and
sufficient funding to implement plans. End summary.

Four Milestones in Wetlands Management
2. Turkey become a party to the "Convention on Wetlands of
International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat" in
1994 and has made impressive progress in the past 15 months,
achieving four important milestones.

-- (1) Turkey has completed its first National Wetlands
Strategy Plan, covering 2003-08. Developed in cooperation
with four ministries (Environment, Forestry, Culture,
Agriculture), the State Water Works (DSI), and NGOs
(WWF/Turkey, Bird Researches Association), the strategy won
praise from the Ramsar Secretariat for its emphasis on
interagency cooperation and for being one of the first
national strategic policy documents focused strictly on
wetlands. Actively engaged in plan development, WWF/Turkey
finds the plan quite fair in assigning responsibilities
among stakeholders and in setting realistic and supportable
objectives. (Comment. The plan's principle drawback is that
it continues the practice of precluding the private sector
from participating in developing wetlands management plans.
End comment.)

-- (2) Effective January 2002, Turkey enacted Wetlands
Protection Regulation that set out guidelines for wetlands
protection and use. What is most remarkable is that Turkey
has stopped several projects proposed by powerful ministries
(DSI, Agriculture) that would have harmed protected
wetlands. Among the blocked projects are the drainage of
12,000 hectares (ha) in Kizilirmak River basin near Samsun,
the irrigation of 48,000 ha in Beysehir Lake (Konya and
Isparta), and the construction of an international harbor in
Izmir's Gediz Delta. Other projects have been sent back to
the drawing board, including a DSI project that would have
negatively affected the ecological integrity of Lake Seyfe
near Kirsehir, water flow plans for the Sultan Marshes in
Kayseri, and water plans for Lake Kus near Balikesir.

-- (3) Turkey established a 12-member National Wetlands
Commission, as required in its wetlands regulations. MOE
heads the Commission whose members include the general
directors of government ministries, important NGOs and
academics. MOE believes that such a high level commission
will resolve conflicting interests among concerned

-- (4) Turkey has designated 71 of its wetlands as
"internationally important" following Ramsar criteria for
fish and waterfowl. These designations bolster recognition
of Turkey as host to one of the most significant collections
of wetlands in Europe and the Middle East. In addition,
Turkey has nine designated Ramsar sites ("Ramsar
designations" are awarded to those sites with
internationally significant ecology, botany, zoology,
limnology or hydrology.) Fulfilling the requirements of its
wetlands regulations, GOT has identified protection areas
and buffer zones for many of the country's 250 lowland and
more than 1,000 alpine wetlands, many of which are barely
even mapped.

Ramsar to Open Regional Center in Turkey
3. WWF told us that the Ramsar Secretariat described
Turkey's regulations and its strategic plan as "models" for
other countries because they add management techniques
unique to Turkey to Ramsar's recommended global management
system. Turkey will host the important international
Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative meeting in Izmir in June.
Following the meeting, MOE and Ramsar Secretariat will open
a Regional Ramsar Center to serve Turkey, the Caucasus and
Central Asian Countries.

Turkey's Wetlands Players
4. In addition to the National Wetlands Commission, three
institutions are actively engaged in Turkey's wetlands
-- (1) MOE. Through its Directorate General for
Environmental Protection, the MOE is Turkey's designated
Ramsar authority.

-- (2) NGOs. NGOs, such as WWF, have taken the lead in
encouraging local communities to use wetlands wisely, a
particularly welcomed educational function that complements
a GOT-produced wetlands documentary. (Comment. Turkey's
engaging NGOs in wetlands activities is not surprising. It
follows Turkey's recognition for its "Worldwide Best
Practice" for effectively engaging civil society
institutions in the development of its WSSD report. End

-- (3) DSI. As the agency responsible for water supply and
distribution, DSI is clearly the most influential water
agency in Turkey. DSI pressed to be the deciding voice in
wetlands planning during the early stages of the
regulation's implementation, despite MOE's official Ramsar
designation and GOT's own requirement that wetlands
regulations be prepared in coordination among ministries,
local authorities and others. However, the National Wetlands
Commission succeeded in deflecting the potential imbalance
of power.

Wetlands: Their Threats and Resources
5. The primary threat to wetlands in general is potential
destruction of delicate hydrologic balance. The greatest
potential offenders are water suppliers and users. In
Turkey, these are potentially DSI, the Ministry of Rural
Affairs, municipalities, local water users associations
(irrigation), and water companies. Pollution (domestic,
industrial, agricultural) and habitat destruction are other
destructive influences. Anthropogenic activity, another
threat, has all but destroyed the alpine wetlands in parts
of eastern Anatolia.

6. Even with hundreds of wetlands in its territory, the GOT
has only three wetlands management plans (Goksu Delta,
Manyas Lake, Uluabat Lake) in effect. The MOE aims to
develop and implement two to three additional wetlands plans
per year. However, as a non-implementing agency, the MOE
has no funding for this purpose and instead relies entirely
on outside sources to fund the $65 - 75,000 it typically
costs to develop wetlands plans over the course of two
years. France and the Netherlands are currently partially
funding two new wetlands plans (Gediz Delta, Burdur Lake).
Implementation can be hugely costly as well, addressing
biology, sociology, biodiversity and other wetlands
elements. Turkey has identified future priorities --
Kizilirmak Delta, Seyfe Lake, Sultan Marshes, Hazar Lake and
the Meric Delta -- but has not earmarked funding to address
their needs. In addition to an absence of funding,
expertise within the MOE is limited.

Transboundary Projects on the Horizon
7. Turkey has several potential opportunities for cross-
border cooperation: with Georgia (at Aktas Lake), Armenia (a
mountain wetlands), and Greece (the Meric Delta, a Ramsar
site on the Greek side of the border). WWF/Georgia is
working on an eco-regional, transboundary conservation
project involving Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia and
Iran. Although a transboundary Ramsar designation could be
achieved within five years, it is unclear if Turkey has
implemented the legal requirements to support transboundary
protection. However, the plan proposes adding a
transboundary Ramsar site and a cooperative transboundary
management program to wetlands programming. It is projected
that the transboundary site to be selected will be one
shared with Georgia.

8. Effective wetlands management requires a high level, long-
term commitment. The on-again, off-again merger of
ministries of Environment and Forestry has reduced momentum
somewhat on wetlands development but not deterred the MOE
team from pushing forward. Although its first transboundary
wetlands management proposal is in the pipeline, Turkey
still lacks sufficient funding and technical resources to
implement its domestic programs. The opening of a Regional
Ramsar Center later this year and Turkey's hosting a
regional wetlands conference may bring much needed exposure,
expertise and resources to Turkey's rich wetlands.


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