Early in February, Turkey was struck by two catastrophic earthquakes. Now, the country must deal with environmental issues related to the removal of the debris and rubble from the demolished structures and roadways.
and February 6, two enormous earthquakes in southern Turkey demolished towns and vast tracts of land, killing almost 51,000 people, according to the Xinhua news agency.
According to information from the Ministry of Environment, Urbanisation, and Climate Change, the catastrophe—which the Turkish government referred to as “the disaster of the century”—caused around 227,000 structures to collapse or suffer significant damage.
For the millions of individuals impacted by the calamity, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to construct new houses within a year.
Around two weeks after the disaster, workers in the cities that were devastated by the tremors and where reconstruction is currently taking place began to clear an incredible amount of rubble.
A citizen and civil engineer from Kahramanmaras, one of the areas most damaged by the February earthquakes, said: “There are literally mountains of rubbles in the open, and it's causing a serious problem.”
He said that hundreds of excavators are at work nonstop, pushing up clouds of dust as they sort through the rubble and destroying any surviving structures that the local government deemed unsuitable for human occupancy.
According to Sezgin, the debris that has been kept in makeshift landfills has sparked worries about contamination from various substances, including asbestos, a cancer-causing fibre that was originally employed as insulating material but is now illegal in most nations, including Turkey.
People are concerned about exposure to harmful chemicals, lead, and microplastics because they have been breathing dust from the rubble in the dumps continuously, according to Selim, a doctor from the earthquake-damaged city of Hatay who requests to be identified only by his first name.
Mehmet Emin Birpinar, a deputy minister for the environment, urban development, and climate change, tweeted on April 27 in response to complaints that dust suppression devices were being used to restrict the spread of potentially dangerous items like asbestos.
Selim said that the authorities' actions may not have been sufficient and that “in a couple of years we might see the adverse health effects.”
The United Nations has also drawn attention to the enormous difficulty that Turkey is now experiencing. According to Louisa Vinton, resident representative for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the challenge's breadth is nearly incomprehensible.
The large Turkish earthquake that devastated the nation's industrial northwest in 1999 was claimed by the UNDP to have left at least ten times as much wreckage in its wake as the February earthquakes.
Yasin Ilmen, a biologist and professor from the western Mugla Sitki Kocman University, said in a tweet at the beginning of April that unchecked rubbish disposal might have harmful effects on both people and animals.
According to bird watcher and wildlife specialist Emin Yogurtcuoglu, municipal officials in Hatay ultimately removed rubbish that had been deposited in a nearby bird sanctuary after hearing the voice of Ilmen and other environmental activists.
He urged authorities to be on the lookout for unchecked debris disposal, saying, “I tweeted about this problem in April and I rapidly got feedback from the authorities who removed the rubbles in the Milleyha Bird Sanctuary.”
Sedat Gundogdu, an expert in plastic pollution at Cukurova University in the southern region of Adana, stated that scientists are still worried since Turkey cannot address a problem of this size on its own.
Gundogdu said on 10 April that since the earthquakes hit such a large area and the debris was handled and stored hastily, this practise has to be changed for concerns of public health and safety.
In 10-15 years, Gundogdu said, “unfortunately, if rubble management is not controlled, we will see an increase in cases of deadly lung diseases and cancer.”