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Istanbul, Turkey

Fishing boat on the Bosphorous

Fishing boat on the Bosphorous


Mehmet Ozturk, fisherman

Fishing the Bosphorous is an industry that has always supported generations of families. Today they face a grim future. Like the farmers of Mexico's Mezquital Valley, these fishermen are suffering the consequences of a city that can't handle the sewage it generates.

Istanbul treats less than 50% of its wastewater. The rest is pumped into what was once one of the world's most productive fisheries.

Mehmet Ozturk has fished for almost twenty years. He was 18 when his father taught him the trade. Mehmet always dreamed that one day his son would join him. That was when this fishery was among the world's most productive. Today his catch is meager. A family tradition is about to disappear.

On most days Mehmet can't help noticing that he's surrounded by an even graver danger. Each day 150 freighters, some filled with nuclear waste and highly flammable cargo, must share this narrow waterway with fifteen hundred ferries and fishing boats. Simply put, the Bosphorous is a ticking time-bomb.

There have already been a series of fatal tanker disasters. Where once the threat of invading armies haunted Istanbul, residents now fear oil and fire could destroy their city.

A sophisticated waterfront city, rich with ethnic and religious diversity, Istanbul has always been one of the great metropolises of the world.

Istanbul's location is both unique and strategic. For more than a thousand years this was a center of the civilized world, a capital of three great empires: the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman. Built on the edge of two continents, Asia and Europe, throughout history this was a bridge between the Orient and the trading centers of Europe and the Middle East. Connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara is the Bosphorous Strait, a narrow fifteen-mile waterway, cutting through the heart of Istanbul.

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul's newest residents are those who flee rural poverty and violence. Many are from Turkey's war-torn Kurdish region. Drawn to the safety and booming economy of Istanbul, they arrive at the rate of over 1,400 every day, 43,000 every month, more than half a million hungry and impoverished people every year.

Forests cover 45 percent of Istanbul's total area, but this green space is now threatened. With little room left in the old city, people are crowding into Istanbul's forests, igniting a battle between those who need housing and those who want to preserve the city's remaining green spaces.

Istanbul's newest residents are those who flee rural poverty and violence. But as new arrivals pour into the city, its water supply begins to suffer.

The most dramatic example of green space loss is along the Bosphorous. Until a few years ago this 17th century Ottoman palace was surrounded by a healthy habitat for plants and animals. Today, it's been invaded by urban sprawl. A nearby forest has been completely destroyed and replaced by a huge housing project.

Video Excerpt: Built on the edge of two continents — Asia and Europe — Istanbul has always served as a bridge between the Orient and the trading centers of Europe and the Middle East. But this sophisticated waterfront city is near collapse as a rapid increase in population taxes its water, waste and housing resources.
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These immigrant settlements, called gecekondus — meaning "built overnight" — are actually sturdy structures that the government eventually legitimizes. Illegal housing is the quickest and easiest way to shelter an exploding population.

As new arrivals pour into the city, its water supply begins to suffer. The surrounding watershed is still productive and unpolluted, but reservoirs within Istanbul are surrounded by illegal settlements. Inadequate sewage facilities threaten Istanbul's drinking water. The impact of mass migration on the city's infrastructure is enormous.



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