by Camillo Ponziani, WOW Project Coordination Unit
Lakes are safe havens for wild animals and Lake Burdur in Turkey is no exception. Being on a key migration route of birds, Lake Burdur is a special place, particularly for waterbirds. More than 100,000 waterbirds rest around the lake, which does not freeze during winter due to its salty alkaline water. The most famous winter visitor is the White-headed duck. As a worldwide endangered species, half of the White-headed ducks spend the winter here. They cross thousands of kilometers to come here and are the symbol of Burdur. But this rare species’ days at Lake Burdur could be numbered.
Unfortunately, wetlands and lakes in Turkey are drying up quickly one by one. Many key lakes have already dried up completely while many others are waiting for their turn to come. It is estimated that 1.5 million hectares of wetlands have been lost during the past 40 years in Turkey alone.
To promote the importance of Lake Burdur, Doga Dernegi, the local implementing partner of the Wings Over Wetlands Project's Demonstration Project at Lake Burdur, has produced “Story of Water”, a short film about the indispensable role played by the lake for the residents of the city, the local climate, agricultural production and nature.
Like many other lakes in the region, Lake Burdur is facing serious threats. The water lost by evaporation is not easily replaced. Rainfall is not like it used to be. Moreover, the tributaries in the vicinity cannot reach the lake and the number of dams and reservoirs that have been built are over twenty. Water extraction at Lake Burdur has reached a tipping point over the past twenty years.
“One of the reasons for the rapid withdrawal of water in the closed basin of Lake Burdur is unsustainable extraction. When we look into the brooks that feed the lake, we see that there is a dam or an irrigation reservoir at almost every one of them. On the other hand, farmers cannot make effective use of these reservoirs to get access to water, so they turn to ground waters. They drill out the underground waters. At that point, none of the sources that feed the lake is able to reach the lake. As evaporation continues, our lake withdraws rapidly”, says Sebahattin Akkaya, mayor of Burdur.
The film, which was developed in the framework of the Wings Over Wetlands (WOW) Project, hopes to breathe new life into how the lake is seen and managed amongst the residents and surrounding villages.
As one local farmer puts it, “our village is dried up now. We used to go and bathe in the lake. We used to take the animals there to graze, they would go into the reed bed. There’s no way they can go there now. It’s bone dry. There’s no life without water. Now the lake has receded at least 5 kilometers. And it continues. I’m sure the withdrawal will continue if we don’t take serious measures.”
In spite of all the problems, Lake Burdur is stubbornly holding out and is proving that it is resilient. A new generation that uses water economically, and protects natural areas and wildlife is being raised. Projects like Wings Over Wetlands, implemented with the support of local government and the participation of non-governmental organizations are helping to give new hope.