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Turkey does well in forestation but faces big environmental challenges

 

16/12/2008 - Turkey compares well with other OECD countries in terms of biodiversity and its relatively low level of greenhouse gas emissions per head of population, but it faces significant future environmental challenges due to unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, according to a new OECD report.

Turkey’s rich biodiversity has benefited from forestation efforts and an extension of protected areas, which now account for more than 5% of the country’s total land area, according to OECD’s latest Environmental Performance Review of Turkey.

Turkey produces less harmful emissions and discharges per head of population than most other OECD countries. It is a leader in the use of solar energy for heating on a wide scale, and it has taken measures to reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants and from motor vehicles.

But road traffic, after falling in 2000-2001, has risen sharply, leading to high levels of air pollution in some urban centres. And pressures from tourism, urbanisation, industry and agriculture continue to threaten biodiversity and natural resources.

The OECD report stresses the environmental progress achieved, but also the need for Turkey to redouble its efforts to further reduce pollution and protect nature. Such environmental progress will reward Turkey with the economic benefits of improved health and labor productivity, and of increased exports of environment-friendly products.

The report also emphasizes the important role of Turkey in contributing to solving international environmental issues in such areas as climate change, maritime issues and water.

“The balance is positive: your efforts have borne important fruit,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría told Turkish government officials at a presentation in Ankara. “But this is a long-term challenge and there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Turkey’s environmental infrastructure is thin and recent strong economic growth has raised problems in such areas as air quality, water and waste management, soil erosion and protection of natural resources.

Pollution intensity levels calculated according to the amounts of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emitted in relation to overall economic output are among the highest in OECD countries. Approximately 53% of total waste water from industry, much of it containing poisonous metals like mercury, lead, chromium and zinc, is still discharged into rivers and coastal waters without any treatment.

Looking ahead, the OECD report suggests that Turkey could do much more to take advantage of renewable energy sources.  It also calls for stronger regulatory standards, in line with European Union legislation, and action to ensure that they are implemented effectively.

“Turkey confronts the challenge of ensuring that economic growth is associated with environmental and social progress,” the report says. “Strengthened environmental efforts from national government, municipalities and the private sector are required to achieve environmental convergence with other OECD countries.”

OECD Environmental Performance Reviews of Turkey can be purchased in paper or electronic form through the OECD’s Online Bookshop.  Subscribers and readers at subscribing institutions can access the online version via SourceOECD.  Journalists may obtain copies via the OECD’s password-protected website or from OECD’s Media Division (mailto:news.contact@oecd.org; telephone: +33 1 45 24 97 00).

For more information, journalists are invited to contact Lorents Lorentsen (mailto:lorents.lorentsen@oecd.org; telephone: +33 6 18 04 23 68 or +33 1 45 24 93 00) or Christian Avérous (mailto:christian.averous@oecd.org; telephone: +33 6 10 59 71 95 or +33 1 45 24 98 19) at OECD’s Environment Directorate.

For further information see: Official visit of the Secretary-General to Turkey.

 

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