When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Environmental Degradation, The Dirty Secret Ahead Of Turkey’s Election

Election day is approaching in Turkey. Unemployment, runaway inflation and eroding rule of law are top of mind for many. But one subject isn't getting the attention it deserves: the environment.

Photo of a man in a burnt forest in Turkey.

Post-fire rehabilitation of the forests in the Icmeler region of Marmaris, Mugla in Turkey, which burned down in the big wildfire in 2021.

Tolga Ildun/Zuma
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — A recent report from the Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA) paints a grim picture of the country's environmental situation, which is getting worse across the board.

Soil is extremely fragile in Turkey, with 78.7% of the country at risk of severe to moderate desertification, mostly due to erosion, which costs Turkey 642 million tons of fertile soil annually. Erosion effects 39% of agricultural land and 54% of pasture land. Erosion of the most fertile top layers pushes farmers to use more fertilizer, TEMA says, which can in turn threaten food safety.

Nearly all of Turkey's food is grown in the country, but agricultural areas have shrunk to 23.1 million hectares in 2022, down from 27.5 in 1992 — a loss of almost 20%.

Agricultural land is shrinking due to misuse as cultivable areas are being zoned for housing and industrial development that cause pollution by salinization and through urban or industrial waste. Overuse of synthetic fertilizer and pesticides, alongside unnecessary tillage of the soil, are also among the drivers of the decline in quality and quantity of agricultural land.

Pasture grounds: 70% are “spoiled”

Turkey has lost 40% of its pasture land since 1970, with the area shrinking from 21.7 million hectares to 13 million by 2022, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Of the remaining land, 70% is considered spoiled, as they are unable to function as an ecosystem and cannot produce grass or hold onto soil or store carbons.

Forests: destruction by “the axe of law”

Not only depots of oxygen, forests also help to prevent erosion and floods and are crucial to the water cycle. In Turkey, forests house 80% of biological diversity on land, and 60% of streams flow from them.

According to Turkey's General Directorate of Forestry (OGM), forests spread across 23.1 million hectares of the country, or 29.4% of the total surface, compared to a global average of 31%. But 2020 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization suggest the real number is just 13.3 million hectares, which brings the percentage to 19 from 29.4. TEMA says that although the forests of Turkey are constitutionally protected, legal regulations described as the “axe of law” remain destructive.

Image of a boat trying to extinguish a wildfire in Mugla, Istanbul.

Wildfire in Mugla, Istanbul, in August 2021.

Sedat Elbasan/Zuma

Water: shortage is near but consumption increases

Turkey has below-average rainfall: 573.4 mm per year on average from 1991 to 2020, compared to the world average of 800. Already a country prone to drought, Turkey is among the countries most likely to be affected by climate change.

At the same time, TEMA says that water usage in the country is increasing due to wrong policies. The organization is calling for a comprehensive law on water usage which will recognize the ecosystem as one, by protecting water that is above and below the ground while taking all living beings into consideration. Discharging sewage and waste water into the seas and streams also remains a problem.

Natural preservation areas: 133 out of 177 countries

The percentage of natural preservation areas on land and in sea are 8.7% and 4% respectively, well below the world average (16%) and the EU average (25%). Turkey ranks at #133 among 177 countries.

TEMA believes the amount and size of the preservation areas in Turkey are not compatible with the ecosystem and biodiversity, and is asking the government to pass a law to protect nature and to establish a single institution to deal with preservation areas.

Climate: excessive heat and drought will increase

TEMA pointed that 2021 was 1.4 °C hotter in Turkey compared to the average of 13.5 °C from 1981 to 2010. This number has doubled in the past three years.

Turkey is increasingly affected by the affects of the climate change in terms of hotter temperatures, natural disasters and drought, but the country's planned growth will continue to drive increasing greenhouse gas emissions, TEMA says, which will could lead to excessive heat, drought and forest fires in the near future.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Libya To Lampedusa, The Toll Of Climate Migration That Spans The Mediterranean

The death toll for Libya's catastrophic flood this week continues to rise, at the same time that the Italian island of Lampedusa raises alarms over unprecedented number of migrant arrivals. What look at first like two distinct stories are part of the same mounting crisis that the world is simply not prepared to face: climate migration.

Photograph of migrants covering themselves from the sun as they wait to be transferred away from the Lampedusa island. An officer stands above them and the ocean speeds in the background.

September 15, 2023, Lampedusa: Migrants wait in Cala Pisana to be transferred to other places from the island

Ciro Fusco/ZUMA
Valeria Berghinz


It’s a difficult number for the brain to comprehend: 20,000. That is the current estimate of how many people were killed — the majority, likely, instantly drowned and washed away — after a dam broke during a massive storm in eastern Libya on Sunday.

As the search continues for victims (the official death count currently stands at over 11,000) in and around the city of Derna, across the Mediterranean Sea, a different number tells another troubling story: in the span of just two days, 7,000 migrants have arrived on the island of Lampedusa.

Midway between Sicily and the North African coast, the tiny Italian island has long been a destination for those hailing from all points south and east to arrive on European soil. Still, the staggering number of arrivals this week of people ready to risk their lives on the perilous journey across the Mediterranean should again set off alarms that reach far beyond the island.

Yet these two numbers — one of the thousands of dead, the other of thousands of survivors — are in some way really one story.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest