Turkey’s Lake Tuz, one of the world’s most iconic salt lakes, has dried up as a result of drought and agricultural demands, Gizmodo news site reported on Friday.
Lake Tuz, which means ‘Salt Lake’ in Turkish, is the second-largest lake in Turkey. The lake is a popular tourist destination and home to the largest flamingo colony in the Mediterranean.
Last summer, thousands of hatchling flamingos died due to low water levels.
“Environmentalist groups say that continued farming practices have combined with the drought to make water demand in the area skyrocket, outstripping supply by some 30% last year,” Gizmodo reported.
“Aggressive irrigation practices for local agriculture have stressed the water supply in the lake, as farmers divert water and dig wells for water-intensive crops,” the report added.
Over the summer, Turkey faced devastating heat and wildfires in its south-eastern cities. At least nine people died in the 270 wildfires that burned more than 230,000 acres of land and forced local residents to evacuate.
In 2000, UNESCO granted special ecological protections to Lake Salt to keep water levels stable and protect species in the lake.
According to a 2007 study, Lake Tuz had shrunk to half its former size over the preceding 40 years due to a combination of industrialisation and drought.
“(We have) rising temperatures and decreasing rain, and on the other side, the water needs for irrigation in agriculture,” Levent Kurnaz, a scientist at Bogazici University’s Centre for Climate Change and Policy Studies, told Gizmodo.
“It’s a bad situation all over Turkey at the moment,” the scientist added. The Gizmodo report also warned that the disappearing Lake Tuz is “only a sign of things to come.”
It noted that a drought that hit the Mediterranean in the 2010s was among the worst for 900 years.
“Climate projections show that the country could see worsening drought as the century goes on, adding to the water stress,” the report said.