Professor Dr. Levent Kurnaz highlights the risk of drought due to low precipitation in Türkiye, measures to be taken, and possible future projections for Anadolu's Analysis Department.
- What is the extent of the drought danger?
Türkiye is located in the Mediterranean Basin, one of the regions that will be worst affected by the climate crisis. In addition to the fact that temperatures in this region will increase more than in other regions, precipitation is expected to decrease by close to 30% by the end of this century. When combined with population growth, this decrease could lead to serious food problems. Thus, drought is one of the biggest problems of our country today and will continue to increase its impact in the future.
The drought we are experiencing this year is extremely severe. What we need to understand is that our country received less than half of the usual amount of precipitation this year. Such a significant decrease will create a significant water shortage for most metropolitan cities. Even today, the water levels in dams in provinces like Istanbul, Izmir, and Bursa, which have been receiving less precipitation for a long time, are quite low at the end of the winter season.
However, the main thing we should worry about is that if this drought continues into the summer and the agricultural lands do not receive the precipitation they need between today and July, our farmers may face difficulties.
Drought shows a special behavior in our region for this year, but this is not surprising. While Türkiye will receive a near-normal precipitation next year, precipitation problems may arise in other parts of the world. For example, the US state of California has been struggling with severe drought in recent years, but this winter has experienced heavy precipitation. Therefore, every year will not be as bad as this year, but we have to get used to the idea that the precipitation will decrease gradually.
- What measures can be taken to prevent the danger?
We have to take measures to reduce the risk of drought in our country. Almost all of the measures taken or planned to be taken in our country so far are based on the argument that the drought is temporary and that there will be precipitation at the end. Unfortunately, climate change will result in permanent changes in precipitation regimes. For this reason, the measures to be taken must be permanent depending on the changes.
It would be wise to especially concentrate our living areas in regions with abundant water, as our ancestors did. Instead of transporting water from the Melen Stream to Istanbul, moving job opportunities in Istanbul to the vicinity of the Melen Stream will create a more permanent solution in the medium and long term. According to UN projections, the urban population is expected to increase by two billion by 2050. However, most of this increase will occur not in today's large cities, but in medium-sized cities (with a population between 500,000 and 1 million). Therefore, creating the necessary infrastructure in regions with access to water and relatively less affected by climate change will guarantee our future.
In addition, it is important to remember that we use three-quarters of our water in agriculture, we urgently need to implement methods such as drip irrigation throughout the country to reduce the amount of water used in agriculture. Furthermore, it is essential for the sustainability of our agricultural output that we need to switch to a more drought-resistant farming pattern, acknowledging that the drought we are experiencing is not temporary.
- What are the possible scenarios in the future?
We need to realize that the drought we have seen this year on the lands we live on will be the new normal for the coming years. Of course, we do not expect every year to bring a drought. However, it is a good idea to get prepared for such droughts.
The fact that the geography we live in is getting drier with each passing year, gradually revealing external factors that require us to be prepared. Increasing temperatures and decreasing precipitation make food production difficult. However, despite these negative factors, population growth continues unabated. The situation in the surrounding countries is more critical compared to our country. In the medium term, the expected mass losses due to drought and heat waves will result in the migration of many communities in our nearby geography to more favorable areas. As our country is also located on these migration routes and the EU may close its borders, we may face a large number of climate refugees in the near future.
Drought, decreasing water resources, increasing population and expected climate migration make it necessary for our country to prepare itself much better. As can be easily seen, the climate crisis is not an issue that only one area of expertise can evaluate and prepare for. Evaluating this issue with various dimensions from agriculture to foreign policy, from water resources to national security, and producing solutions will help us guarantee our future.
[Prof. Dr. Levent Kurnaz is director of the Center for Climate Change and Policy Studies at Bogazici University.]
*Translated by Seda Sevencan