'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

What You Do Speaks So Loudly . .

. . that what you say I cannot hear! A variation on ‘Deeds speak louder than words!’

Here in Turkey I am lucky enough to live in a country that is so enthusiastic about protecting its natural environment that it has probably signed up to more treaties, conventions, agreements and memorandums of understanding than any other on the planet. Turkey ‘Talks the Talk’ like few others. The obverse of the coin, ‘Walking the Walk’ leaves something to be desired!

It would be more accurate to say that ‘Money Talks and Walks the Walk’ – in 16 years of living here I have seen example after example. I want to stress that Turkey is no better and no worse than most other countries around the world – greed, ‘primitive accumulation’ lies at the heart of the economic system; a system that commodifies everything – including the environment! If tiresome protection laws get in the way of the ‘fast buck’ then they are to be ignored, rescinded or bribed away.

The small town of Dalyan is a case in point; it sits at the heart of Turkey’s very first Specially Protected Area – the setting is stunning! Carian tombs, mountain views, amazing beach and Loggerhead Turtles, the potential for exploitation was enormous and so exploited it was!

These days the attractive old houses have been demolished and replaced by concrete.

the last of its kind, Omer’s ‘Old Turkish House’ bar in Dalyan – demolished and replaced by a row of concrete shops

Great swathes of once beautiful countryside are covered in villas that stand empty much of the year. Unregulated development means an excess of hotels, pansions, restaurants, fashion shops, boats on the river, etc., all chasing too few customers to make a decent living. The once magnificent reed beds of the Dalyan canal and delta are gone, replaced by sedge due to salination because of excessive fresh water extraction. Inadequate infrastructure means some parts of the town stink of raw sewage in the summer.


all that remains of old Dalyan’s charm

Tourists are now guaranteed to see endangered Caretta caretta turtles as the captains have taken to baiting them with kitchen scraps on fishing lines so they hang around instead of going off and living a natural life. Many are injured or killed by boat propellers, some have bitten tourists and had to go for ‘rehabilitation’. Much of what once drew visitors to the town has now gone – exploited away, and no amount of fancy floodlight illumination of the Carian Tombs or plastic turtles in the park will bring it back.

baiting endangered Caretta with endangered Blue Crab at Dalyan (travbuddy.com) and below the consequences

. . and one of the consequences (igougo.com)

Another case in point is the Lycian Way – Turkey’s first long distance walking route.

my copies of Clow’s books

Pioneered by Kate Clow, the route begins at Hisarönü near Fethiye in the west and ends, 500kms later, at Hisarçandır 25kms short of Antalya in the east. In between lies some of the most beautiful, rugged and unspoilt countryside to be found anywhere along Turkey’s Turquoise Coast – but, for how long? Truth be told, Turkey gets a lot of prestige but very little money out of the Lycian Way. The Lycian Way will never really be an income generating asset – unless that is it can be turned into a commodity!

Lycian Way above Ölüdeniz (anadolujet.com)

Lycian Way near Mt Olympus (lycianadventures.com)

‘Tadaaaa!’ Welcome to the future as Ölüdeniz Belediyesi (local council) blithely drives the thin end of a very big wedge under its end of this world famous, world class walk. How? By granting permission, admittedly together with the Environmental Agency for hotel development on the first few hundred metres of the route, and then allowing the bulldozing of the ancient path to make way for the standard, 7mt wide, access road.

getting it wrong – the future for the Lycian Way

. . is that the rustle of leaves or banknotes I hear?

It won’t stop there of course, it never does. There will be others anxious to give tourists access to this most beautiful, rugged and unspoilt path by building hotels, swimming pools and restaurants (whilst making a little honest income, of course). And they’ll be ready to grease the odd palm to do so! Just as has happened at Hasankeyf and so many other places money will trump ÇET (environmental impact) reports and the earth-moving machines will be in before you can organise a protest group. The damage will be done, shoulders will be shrugged and the wedge will get another surreptitious tap or two from the bulldozer.

One day those who jumped on the bandwagon will wake up and realise that the very things that drew visitors to the area have disappeared along with the visitors. There will be much wringing of hands and midnight flits; the once snazzy ‘butik’ hotels will become sleezy flop-houses as overheads outstrip income. I predict that the ‘patient’ will straight-line within a few years. The Lycian Way, one of Turkey’s genuine, long-term assets will have been ‘Dalyanised’ and no amount of green fluorescent strip lighting or plastic palm trees will bring it back.

armageddonMass tourism, that ‘pile-it-high flog-it-cheap’ commodity has had its day and is declining rapidly. Unless the politicos, local and national, wake up to the real worth of this beautiful, historic country that they have inherited, and start to protect and defend that worth then sustainable tourism is finished. Not in my lifetime, it’s too late for people my age, but what about your grandchildren Başkan – don’t they deserve something better than the ‘fast buck’ you are offering now?

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

26 thoughts on “What You Do Speaks So Loudly . .

  1. Quite sad really! Looking forward to getting to Dalyan this summer to see the effects for my own eyes Alan – Last time I was there was 2001. Just hope the Turks realise before we end up with empty concrete jungles in tourist destinations.

  2. Makes me weep – but know there is nothing to be done. I’ve listened to over 3 decades of Ministries telling us they want to preserve natural beauty while they send in the bulldozers.
    32 years ago I took my first trip to Dalyan from Ekincik with Abidin Kurt – it is a trip I remember vividly, shame my daughter can’t enjoy it too.
    BacktoBodrum recently posted..Juniper MolassesMy Profile

    1. Hi Annie! I wouldn’t agree that nothing can be done – this post is timed to click in with a push by Kate Clow, the Vali and others to put pressure on Ankara specifically about ‘alternative’ and non-coastal tourism. So spreading the word by linking and asking friends to comment will help. It is disheartening though, because whilst one may be stopped here many more get the nod elsewhere.
      Alan recently posted..Jewel In The CrownMy Profile

  3. Yes, Alan. The effects of mass tourism are so, so dismaying but, as you say, it’s happening everywhere in the world. The Spanish Med coast, much of Cyprus, Rhodes, the list could go on and on. We are cheered, however, by the court’s recent decision stopping the work on the Ilusu dam which would flood Hasankeyf. We are planning to go there this spring with some friends, one of whom has been working hard to increase awareness of this beautiful place. Sometimes it seems hopeless but there are still people out there who care.
    Senior dogs recently posted..Cautious Optimism in the Midst of MourningMy Profile

    1. . . there are indeed! The battle goes on, a skirmish here and there is won – enough to lift the spirits. The Lycian Way may yet prove to be a skirmish that will win protection for long distance paths – the wheels are turning.
      Alan recently posted..You Marque My WordsMy Profile

  4. This is all so sad. Something will come to a head at some point. We’ve not seen the Lycian Way hotel/ road site yet but intend walking there soon to see for ourselves. The Lycian Way and the other routes could bring in good money for Turkey if it was done right. Not noticed the Lake District in the UK doing too badly out of fell walking revenue.

    Ölü Deniz (and many other places as far as Göcek) are set to be swallowed up by Fethiye Belediyesi soon as part of the recent government changes. Wonder if that’s a change for the good as far as the environment is concerned. Hope so – although we have to have a new mayor soon as the current one, Behçet Saatçi, has done a hefty stretch.

    Turkey’s For Life recently posted..Winter In Fethiye: It’s Hotel Renovation Time AgainMy Profile

    1. take care if you visit – they don’t take kindly to ‘snoopers’. I doubt the admin changes will be for the better – anyway, Fethiye reputation is for ‘prettyfication’ – the destruction of wetlands, the pathetic business of the bird reserve and the move to relocate the boatyards are cases in point. The mayor may be a nice chap but he cares nothing for the environment.
      Alan recently posted..The Okçular Book ProjectMy Profile

  5. I could not agree more with what you have said Alan. We are heading to Dikili shortly to visit the in laws and last time we were there the old houses dating back to the time when the Greeks lived there and almost all gone to large apartment blocks, with no though of conservation. Yes we do need to move forward and some of these old properties wouldn’t have lasted long, but some could have been renovated instead of being demolished. I think in the UK we prefer to preserve and remember our history, this is an emerging country with the focus on the future not the past. Unlike the Greeks who like to preserve their coastline a bit better with various laws on painting and build properties Turkey really is a free for all. I just hope that all this building is worth it and they don’t end up like Spain with half finished buildings and 1000s of villas standing empty with no one to buy them and the beauty and history of the country ruined by greed.
    Kerry recently posted..Cost of Living in Turkey 2012/2013My Profile

    1. Hi Kerry! The Spanish experience is apt as it was only 2 or 3 years back that the Minister for Tourism returned from a visit to Spain and proclaimed that theirs was the model that Turkey needed to follow! Since when Spain has embarked on a programme (now dead in the water due to their economic situation) to demolish buildings and restore the coastline.
      Alan recently posted..Candles In The WindMy Profile

  6. Alan, this is so sad to hear, and hats off to you for doing whatever you can to combat this trend. Your first pictures of the Lycian Trail are so gorgeous that I want to get on the next plane and walk along it. It reminds me a bit of the hikes along the sea in the Cinque Terre in Italy. It is not just Turkey….Italy that makes a huge amount of money on tourism is letting the Camorra Mafia spread concrete over the south. The once pristine waters of the Amalfi coast are now becoming polluted. I’ve seen horrible things in the US too. A few summers ago my Italian husband insisted that we take the family to see Niagara falls. It was terrible. I remember eating dinner in a huge, crowded restaurant built right up against the falls and the evening light show began and they started shining violet, red and yellow lights on the water. It was so tacky and was the perfect way to ruin the natural beauty.
    Trisha Thomas recently posted..Return to GiglioMy Profile

  7. We are battling the same sort of thing in Uçhisar in Cappadocia – two utterly inappropriate hotel developments that have done such damage to the visual beauty on one side. But it’s so hard to win against the power of big money. Unless the environment can be turned into a money-spinner there seems so little hope. So the court has stopped work at Hasankeyf for the time being. But the dam has been built and work begun on Yeni Hasankeyf. How likely is it really that some way will not be found to proceed as planned? How I wish I felt more optimistic but in my travels round Turkey in the footsteps of the explorers I sometimes think how they were recording its beauty and I’m recording its destruction.

    1. Hello Pat, welcome to Archers. The odd victory is achieved, even against the biggest operators – Yuvarlakçay is a good example – but for every win there are hundreds of losses. J and I focus almost exclusively on our immediate home area now – as we get older it becomes harder to commit and I think we both feel pangs of guilt as a result. Is there an answer? To paraphrase Bill Clinton ‘It’s the system, stupid!’
      Alan recently posted..The Okçular Book ProjectMy Profile

  8. It’s very sad to see. I worry about the future of the wetlands at Pamucak. I wonder how far the current drive to clean up the Kucuk Menderes is to attract mass tourism our side of Kusadasi.

    I’ve not seen a part of Turkey yet which didn’t have some natural beauty and some valuable archaeology. Often both together. But some areas are so rich whereas the people in other areas appear to have very little.

    I think people do have a concept of ‘cultural tourism’ but so few seem to have much of an idea of how to cater for it. So the assumption is that the ‘all inclusives’ and the ’boutique hotels’ are the way forward.

    Sadly I can’t really see ‘environmental tourism’ catching on here in a big way – not till it’s too late to save many of the beautiful places currently under threat.
    Hilary recently posted..Selçuk Camel Wrestling FestivalMy Profile

    1. . . where in the world is there really ‘environmental tourism’? Think about what is being done to combat global warming – nothing! Think about Alaska; tar sands; you name it. There is a saying that if a capitalist stood on the gallows he’d try to sell the hangman a rope!
      Alan recently posted..Candles In The WindMy Profile

      1. ‘Environmental Tourism’ most definitely in inverted commas.

        We encountered some on the Mexico/Guatemala border where ‘jungle lodges’ were being run by the local tribes. So expensive that we couldn’t afford to stay long. Mostly used as a stop for coach tours, we think. And in the middle of incredible jungle (and so many Mayan sites you can visit if you pay someone to take you to them in a boat).

        I don’t think it actually exists anywhere. But it could happen in Turkey, given the will.
        Hilary recently posted..Selçuk Camel Wrestling FestivalMy Profile

        1. my experience is obviously limited, but I have yet to discover any understanding of the concept of the environment and its protection within the bureaucracy here. It could be argued that ‘given the will’ it could happen everywhere 🙂

  9. It’s always sad to hear such news. Of course, we should develop the country, but, in the same, time, preserving its historical beauty!

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