Letter to Turkish president

Coalition between the Mediterranean Alliance for Wetlands and BirdLife International partners committed to prevent the loss of Lake Marmara

Your Excellency, Mr. President,

We are writing to you as a group of 25 international environmental organizations including members of the Mediterranean Alliance for Wetlands and BirdLife International partners to request your support to restore Lake Marmara’s ecological conditions and prevent its loss. This lake is a source of life and wellbeing for the people of the Aegean Region, and is a national treasure of international importance.

At Lake Marmara (Annex 1), the situation is dramatic, the lake has lost 98,18 % of its surface area in 10 last years between 2011 and 2021. In August 2021 the lake completely dried up. This problem is caused by over extraction of water due to agriculture and urban development, disregarding the water needs of the ecosystem. This not only affects the conservation of a key biodiversity area and its emblematic birds and fish of Turkey (see the Annex 2) but also poses important pressures on its inhabitants, particularly to fishers and shepherds, who are migrating to look for alternative food and economic resources.

The Lake Marmara area is home to 19,220 inhabitants and has been registered as a Nationally Important Wetland since 2017 according to the Regulation on the Protection of Wetlands prepared under the Ramsar Convention. This regulation addresses the sustainable use of wetlands, allowing them to be inherited by future generations while preserving their ecological character. In addition, the site meets the criteria to become a Ramsar site, a wetland of international importance, especially to provide waterfowl habitat (see Annex 3).

The lake is one of the 184 Important Bird Areas and 305 Key Biodiversity Areas in Turkey. This lake is one of the three important wetlands in the Aegean region.

Until recently, around 65,000 waterfowl were recorded in the lake during the winter months. The iconic breeding species include Dalmatian pelicans Pelecanus crispus, Spur-winged lapwings Vanellus spinosus, Ferruginous ducks Aythya nyroca and Squacco herons Ardeola ralloides. Mediterranean bird communities count on the lake as an important stopover for feeding and breeding.

This wetland is also of vital importance for fisheries, but fishing activities has end with the extinction of the lake. The lake is home to 5 endemic freshwater fish species including:  Ladigesocypris mermere, Gediz dwarf goby Knipowitschia mermere, Aegean Scraper Capoeta bergamae, Eastern Aegean nase Chondrostoma holmwoodii, and Aegean Spined Loach Cobitis fahireae. These are the species securing the Key Biodiversity Area status of the lake.  

If we lose the lake, human rights to live in a healthy environment and the commitments with the international and Turkish communities would be violated. We therefore recommend that you, Mr. President, reconsider the restoration of Lake Marmara.

For the restoration of the lake we recommend that:

We consider that you and your government have a unique opportunity to demonstrate to the world your leadership in addressing the environmental crisis and promoting sustainable development, which considers local needs and wishes and adheres to international and national law and commitments.

Instead of allowing damaging development, we ask that lake Marmara be used as a flagship for ecologically compatible tourism and fisheries.

We the undersigned organizations remain at your disposal to provide any further information required and to contribute our expertise to support the protection and preservation of the valuable Lake Marmara.

Yours sincerely,

The Mediterranean Alliance for Wetlands and BirdLife International whose logos appear in this letter.

Signatories: Tour du Valat (France), Birdlife International Europe and Central Asia, Society for the Protection of Prespa (Greece), Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, AOS – Albanian Ornithological Society, , EuroNatur Foundation (Germany), Algerian National Association of Ornithology ANAO Algeria, Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos (MedINA) (Greece), BIOM Association (Croatia),  AAO – Association “Les Amis des Oiseaux (Tunisia), Mediterranean Sea and Coast Foundation (MEDSEA), CZIP – Center for protection and research of birds (Montenegro), World Wetland Network, Initiative PIM (France), GONHS – Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society, OTOP – Polish Society for the Protection of Birds, CSO – Czech Society for Ornithology, Birdlife Estonia, BirdLife Sverige (Sweden), BirdLife Finland, Faroese Ornithological Society (Faroe Islands ), NABU – Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union (Germany), Lipu (Italy), Birdlife Denmark, Wetlands International European Association.

Download the letter together with the annexes HERE.