Two thousand years ago, Lake Bafa was a bay in the Aegean Sea, known as the Gulf of Latmus. The remains of ancient Byzantine monasteries can still be found on its islets and nearby mountains. Today, the lake in Turkey’s Muğla Province is home to remarkable biodiversity: 261 bird species, 25 plant species, 22 reptile species, and 19 mammal species. But all that is under threat. The lake’s waters have started turning green and foamy thanks to salinization and polluting discharge from factories and fish farms.
Pollution is many-pronged problem
Untreated wastewater from factories in the town of Bafa, which lies east of the lake, is being dumped in the lake, according to Turkish paper Hürriyet Daily News.
At the lake’s western end, a fish farm is also releasing waste into the water. Plans for a second farm are reportedly underway, according to Professor Erol Kesici, a professor of aquaculture and a spokesman for Turkey’s Ecosystem Protection and Nature-Lovers’ Association (EKODOSD).
Perhaps most destructive, Lake Bafa’s main water source, the Büyük Menderes River, has become increasingly salty ever since it was diverted for irrigation use in 1985. The salinization of the river and the Büyük Menderes Lake have lowered the fertility of nearby fields, and have added an unpleasant odor to the lake, making it a less attractive destination for tourists.
Kesici recommends that Turkey’s state water works (DSİ) treat Bafa Lake with biological cleaning systems to eradicate the pollution. Otherwise, he warns, it could turn into another Büyük Menderes Lake, with the damage from the pollution spreading far and wide around the region.
“Bafa Lake’s water ecosystem environs, river basin and soil structure is the best and cheapest purifier for the environment,” he told the Hürriyet.
A team from the DSİ has taken samples from Bafa Lake and will test them to determine the exact causes of the pollution. Kesici hopes the team works quickly. By the summer, when Bafa Lake isn’t receiving much fresh water in the form of rain, he points out, the problem could get much worse.
Follow İzmir’s model?
In tackling the pollution at Bafa Lake, local authorities would do well to follow the model of another region on Turkey’s Aegean coast: İzmir.
The Gulf of İzmir was used as an open sewer system beginning in the 1960s. But in 2000, İzmir’s municipal government initiated the Big Gulf Project to clean it up. Those efforts are just now paying off, as recent underwater photos showed remarkable marine life returning to the area.
The İzmir clean-up effort did require major investments by its municipal government — investments that not every city in Turkey is rich enough to make. But if the historical value and tourism potential of Bafa Lake and its surrounding nature reserve were quantified, Muğla’s local authorities would find it an investment worth making as well.
Read more about nature conservation in Turkey:
Life Returns To Gulf — Once A Sewer On Turkey’s Aegean Coast
Istanbul’s Natural Oases: The Atatürk Arboretum and Belgrade Forest
Hydroelectric Dam Threatens “Ecological Massacre” in Turkey
Polluting Paradise Documentary Follows Turkish Village’s Battle Against Invading Garbage
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