Urban sprawl threatens Istanbul drinking water
July 26, 1997
Web posted at: 3:15 p.m. EDT (1915 GMT)
From Correspondent Peter Arnett
ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- Istanbul is a city virtually
surrounded by water, but none that is good enough for
What to the uninitiated visitor in Istanbul may look like a
gas station is in fact a water station, where people fill up
containers for their homes. Many people living in the city do
not want to drink tap water because they say it's muddy and
makes them sick.
Istanbul, situated on a land bridge between Europe and Asia,
has no natural aquifer. Throughout history, drinking water
has been brought in by aqueducts from lakes and reservoirs
from well outside the city. But the areas where these natural
resources lie is being threatened by the explosive growth of
the city. From 7 million people in 1990, Istanbul has grown
to an estimated 12 million inhabitants. And the city is still
The precious green belts on Istanbul's eastern and western
sides are disappearing because of uncontrolled settlements.
About 1500 years ago, the Byzantines built a wall to extend
from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. The idea was to
protect Constantinople, now the modern city of Istanbul, from
invading armies. But now, the invasion approaches the wall
from the other direction -- in the form of urban sprawl.
Environmentalists have launched a project to protect both the
Byzantine wall and surrounding areas as a green belt, a sort
of green "lung" for Istanbul.
Environmentalists say that if the area were to be declared a
world heritage site, it would force local government to
contain runaway development and thereby preserve precious
"I wouldn't say water resources are within critical limits,"
said urban planner Sumer Gurel. "But if no precautions are
taken in good time, we might confront rather catastrophic
results in the very near future."
Itanbul's water board is in a constant race to deal with new
needs and to replace the old leaky pipes, which give city tap
water its bad name.
But if Istanbul protects the wall as a part of its historical
heritage, that very heritage may once again protect the
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