New UNDP project to fight pollution of Asi River in Turkey

Posted May 30, 2022
Bora Akbay / UNDP Turkey

Japanese-funded effort bolsters local climate action as part of global campaign.

Hatay, 30 May 2022 – With US$1.8 million in funding from Japan, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has launched a new project aimed at protecting the delicate marine ecosystem in Hatay Province in Turkey’s South. “Climate Action for Hatay” combines three aims: first, to remove waste from the Asi River as it drains into the Mediterranean at the city of Samandağ; second, to reduce waste dumping into the river through improved regulations and public education; and third, to counter the threats posed by the proliferation of the water hyacinth, an invasive species that clogs rivers, hurts water quality and threatens the local fishing economy.

“Without local action, climate commitments are just words on paper,” said UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton. “Our new initiative in Hatay aims not only to counter threats to the Asi River ecosystem, and ultimately to the entire majestic Mediterranean Sea, but also to test and refine hands-on climate mitigation and adaptation solutions that can easily be applied elsewhere.”

The project will make use of Japanese expertise, lessons learned and technological innovations on marine litter and waste management.

“Japan considers the climate crisis as a threat to all humanity,” said Japanese Ambassador Suzuki Kazuhiro. “Our aim in working with UNDP is to accelerate progress towards the positive net zero commitments that so many countries have made but are currently struggling to implement.”

The Asi River originates in Lebanon and flows northward through Syria before entering Turkey. Along its 571-kilometer length it accumulates waste that is then discharged into the Mediterranean.

The new project tackles priority measures defined in a local climate action plan that UNDP helped Hatay Province prepare in 2019, including improving waste management and recycling.

“We are pleased to embark on a new phase of our partnership with UNDP focused on building our city's resilience on migration, environment and climate issues.” said Lütfü Savaş, Mayor of Hatay Metropolitan Municipality. “This new project, which will also support the implementation of our local climate action plan, will accelerate our efforts, particularly in waste management, water quality and combating invasive water hyacinth, through international technical expertise.”

The concrete measures the project will undertake include trapping, removing and recycling marine litter from the mouth of the Asi River; equipping local fishing boats with tools to remove waste from the coastal waters around Samandağ; training 300 preschool and elementary school teachers and village heads on how to educate young people on “zero waste” practices; creating a monitoring system to map the prevalence of the water hyacinth; piloting techniques to remove physically the invasive plant from the river; and working with the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change to set guidelines on controlling marine litter and implementing zero waste policies.

The current initiative builds on previous UNDP work in Hatay Province, including the construction in 2019 of a US$4 million wastewater treatment plant in Hassa that can serve 60,000 people and has eliminated a source of untreated sewage that previously flowed freely into the Asi River.

Hatay Province hosts one of the largest concentrations of refugees in Turkey: 432,084 residents, or one-fourth of the 1.7 million population, are Syrians under temporary protection. The influx of such a large population has put pressure on the region’s capacity for waste management. The project is thus expected to help reduce potential tensions between refugees and host communities.

The new initiative in Turkey is just one example of the work supported by UNDP’s Climate Promise in more than 100 countries. The Climate Promise is the largest global climate and development offer of support to countries in fulfilling their national pledges to the Paris Agreement.

At the Glasgow climate summit in 2021, UNDP launched a new phase, “Climate Promise: From Pledge to Impact,” aimed at translating NDC targets into concrete action. Japan is the largest supporter of this phase and joins longstanding partners Germany, Sweden, the EU, Spain and Italy and new funding partners the UK, Belgium, Iceland and Portugal to accelerate these efforts.

More information on the Climate Promise: climatepromise.undp.org and @UNDPClimate

Media Contact: Faik Uyanık, UNDP Turkey, faik.uyanik@undp.org

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