Reflecting on the Turkey & Syria earthquakes

We are devastated by the news of the terrible earthquake that shocked Turkey and Syria in February 2023. Below are the words of Dr. Aysegul Cil, the Executive Director of our Turquoise Coast Environment Fund – Turkey (TCEF). The tragedy led to the projects supported by TCEF being put on hold while Aysegul worked with local organisations on the framework to help rebuild the affected areas. 

Many people lost their lives on February 6, 2023, during massive earthquakes in ten of the Southeastern Turkish provinces. Beyond the loss of lives and destruction, the earthquakes created significant environmental concerns, both immediate and long-term. In addition to water supply and infrastructure including basic sanitary facilities and shelter for people; we need to start thinking of ways to rebuild our cities and their productive surrounding lands with nature and landscape values. Some coastal communities in the affected zone have experienced an additional impact on geological problems due to numerous landslides and changes in coastal structures. Increasing risk and health concerns of all types of waste in the area call for an ecological disaster in the near future. A deeper question is how humans could rebuild livelihoods that can be in harmony with their natural habitats. This terrible disaster is a reminder that our relationship with the environment should be rethought to protect people with critical decisions for landscape protective laws and regulations in earthquake zones. The Province of Hatay, for example, has vast agricultural lands and coastal areas including Milleyha Coastal Wetland’s rich nature and biodiversity values.

How can TCEF contribute to rebuilding the earthquake-hit area with the consideration of nature and landscape values? We are getting ready to work with local NGOs and communities with the close participation of local people for making their living environment once more liveable with better conditions providing sustainable food, land, and water in the region. A wide range of topics such as wildlife, agricultural lands, nature and biodiversity, coastal restoration, and landscape regeneration, will receive attention in the region. Furthermore, Turkey has already been experiencing higher temperatures, drought, and sea level rise due to climate change. Any new reconstruction plans will have to keep these in mind and new plans will have to replace outdated building methods with sustainable, participative, and nature and biodiversity focused.

Naturally, nothing can be achieved alone, indeed TCEF is collaborating with experts, NGOs, donors, national and international organizations and especially local partners on the ground.