Turkey’s Lake Tuz dries up due to climate change, farming

Turkey’s Lake Tuz dries up due to climate change, farming
1 / 3
People take photograph and stroll at Tuz lake in Ankara province of Turkey, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Turkey’s Lake Tuz dries up due to climate change, farming
2 / 3
A shepherd herds a flock of sheep near Lake Tuz in Aksaray province of Turkey, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Lake Tuz, Turkey’s second largest lake, and home to several bird species has seen its waters entirely recede this year. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Turkey’s Lake Tuz dries up due to climate change, farming
3 / 3
A man walks along Lake Tuz in Aksaray province, Turkey, Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. Lake Tuz, Turkey’s second largest lake and a victim of climate change-induced drought that has hit the region as well as decades-long wrongful agricultural policies that have exhausted the lake’s underground waters. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Updated 28 October 2021

Turkey’s Lake Tuz dries up due to climate change, farming

Turkey’s Lake Tuz dries up due to climate change, farming

KONYA, Turkey: For centuries, Lake Tuz in central Turkey has hosted huge colonies of flamingos that migrate and breed there when the weather is warm, feeding on algae in the lake’s shallow waters.
This summer, however, a heart-wrenching scene replaced the usual splendid sunset images of the birds captured by wildlife photographer Fahri Tunc. Carcasses of flamingo hatchlings and adults scattered across the cracked, dried-up lake bed.
The 1,665 square kilometer (643 square mile) lake — Turkey’s second-largest lake and home to several bird species — has entirely receded this year. Experts say Lake Tuz (Salt Lake in Turkish) is a victim of climate change-induced drought, which has hit the region hard, and decades of harmful agricultural policies that exhausted the underground water supply.
“There were about 5,000 young flamingos. They all perished because there was no water,” said Tunc, who also heads the regional branch of the Turkish environmental group Doga Dernegi. “It was an incredibly bad scene. It’s not something I can erase from my life. I hope I do not come across such a scene again.”
Several other lakes across Turkey have similarly dried up or have receded to alarming levels, affected by low precipitation and unsustainable irrigation practices. Climate experts warn that the entire Mediterranean basin, which includes Turkey, is particularly at risk of severe drought and desertification.
In Lake Van, Turkey’s largest lake, located in the country’s east, fishing boats no longer could approach a dock last week after the water fell to unusual levels, HaberTurk television reported.
”(We have) rising temperatures and decreasing rain, and on the other side, the water needs for irrigation in agriculture,” said Levent Kurnaz, a scientist at Bogazici University’s Center for Climate Change and Policy Studies. “It’s a bad situation all over Turkey at the moment.”
A study based on satellite imagery conducted by Turkey’s Ege University shows that water levels at Lake Tuz started to drop beginning in 2000, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency. The lake completely receded this year due to rising temperatures, intensified evaporation and insufficient rain, according to the study.
The study also noted a sharp decline in underground water levels around Lake Tuz, a hypersaline lake that straddles the Turkish provinces of Ankara, Konya and Aksaray.
The Konya basin in central Anatolia, which includes Lake Tuz, was once known as Turkey’s breadbasket. Farms in the region have turned to growing profitable but water-intensive crops such as corn, sugar-beet and alfalfa, which have drained groundwater supplies, photographer Tunc said. Farmers have dug thousands of unlicensed wells while streams feeding the lake have dried up or been diverted, he said.
Environmental groups say poor government agricultural policies play a significant role in the deterioration of Turkey’s lakes.
“If you don’t pay them enough money, the farmers, they will plant whatever is water intensive and will make money for them. And if you just tell them it’s not allowed, then they won’t vote for you in the next election,” Kurnaz said.
The overuse of groundwater is also making the region more susceptible to the formation of sinkholes. Dozens of such depressions have been discovered around Konya’s Karapinar district, including one that Associated Press journalists saw next to a newly harvested alfalfa field.
Tunc, 46, a native of Aksaray, is saddened by the thought that he won’t be able to enjoy the flamingos with his 7-month-old son like he did with his 21-year-old son. He remains hopeful, however, that Lake Tuz may replenish itself, if the government stops the water-intensive agriculture.
Kurnaz, the climate scientist, is less optimistic.
“They keep telling people that they shouldn’t use groundwater for this agriculture and people are not listening. There are about 120,000 unlicensed wells in the region, and everybody is pumping out water as if that water will last forever,” Kurnaz said.
“But if you are on a flat place, it can rain as much as you want and it won’t replenish the groundwater in a short time. It takes maybe thousands of years in central Anatolia to replenish the underground water table,” he added.
The drought and flamingo deaths at Lake Tuz were just one of a series of ecological disasters to strike Turkey this summer, believed to be partly due to climate change.
In July, wildfires devastated swaths of forests along Turkey’s southern coast, killing eight people and forcing thousands to flee. Parts of the country’s northern Black Sea coast were struck by floods that killed 82 people. Earlier, a layer of sea mucilage, blamed on soaring temperatures and poor waste management, covered the Sea of Marmara, threatening marine life.
Although Turkey was among the first countries to sign the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the country held off ratifying it until this month as it sought to be reclassified as a developing country instead of a developed one to avoid harsher emission reduction targets. Turkish lawmakers issued a declaration rejecting the status of developed country at the same time they ratified the climate agreement.
In the town of Eskil, near the shores of Lake Tuz, farmer Cengiz Erkol, 54, checked the irrigation system on his field growing animal feed.
“The waters aren’t running as strong and abundant as they used to,” he said. “I have four children. The future doesn’t look good. Each year is worse than the previous year.”


Half of Iran’s civil jets grounded for lack of spare parts

Half of Iran’s civil jets grounded for lack of spare parts
Updated 8 sec ago

Half of Iran’s civil jets grounded for lack of spare parts

Half of Iran’s civil jets grounded for lack of spare parts

TEHRAN: More than half of Iran’s fleet of civilian aircraft is grounded due to a lack of spare parts, the deputy head of the country’s airlines association has said.

“The number of inactive planes in Iran has risen to more than 170 ... as a result of missing spare parts, particularly motors,” Alireza Barkhor said in an interview with state news agency IRNA.

The shortage represented more than half of the civilian aircraft in the sanctions-hit country, he said in an interview this week.

“If this trend continues, we will see even more planes grounded in the near future,” Barkhor was quoted as saying.

“We hope that one of the priorities of the government will be helping to finance airlines so that they are able to provide the spare parts to refurbish the grounded planes,” he added.

According to the Iranian economic daily Financial Tribune, national carrier IranAir currently operates a fleet of 39 planes, the majority of them Airbus jets.

Iran’s economy has struggled under sanctions that were lifted after a landmark nuclear deal in 2015 but reimposed again after the US withdrew from the pact in 2018.

In 2016, following the lifting of sanctions, Iran concluded deals to purchase 100 Airbus jets, 80 Boeing planes and 40 ATR aircraft.

But the Islamic republic received only 11 planes as deliveries were interrupted following the reimposition of sanctions, according to the daily.

Meanwhile, Iran has voiced criticism over new US sanctions imposed on a dozen Iranian entities and officials accused of “serious” human rights abuses.

Washington announced the sanctions late on Tuesday, adding to already stringent measures against the Islamic republic.

They came just before talks on reviving a nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers are to resume on Thursday in Vienna, according to Iran’s main negotiator.

“Even amid #ViennaTalks, US cannot stop imposing sanctions against Iran,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted.

“Washington fails to understand that ‘maximum failure’ and a diplomatic breakthrough are mutually exclusive,” he added.

“Doubling down on sanctions won’t create leverage — and is anything but seriousness and goodwill.”

The new US measures target government officials and organizations involved in the repression of protesters and political activists, and prisons where activists have been held in brutal conditions.

After a pause of several months the nuclear talks resumed in Vienna last week but paused on Friday.


Music therapy helping lift spirits of war-weary Gazans

Music therapy helping lift spirits of war-weary Gazans
Updated 41 min 47 sec ago

Music therapy helping lift spirits of war-weary Gazans

Music therapy helping lift spirits of war-weary Gazans
  • Music therapy gained official recognition after World War II in successfully dealing with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder
  • According to UNICEF figures, 1 million children live in Gaza which has witnessed four wars with Israel since 2008

GAZA CITY: Specialists in the besieged Gaza Strip are mixing psychiatry and music in therapy sessions designed to improve positivity among the Palestinian enclave’s war-weary population.

And 12-year-old Reem, whose family home was bombed in May during the latest clashes in the ongoing Israeli Palestinian conflict, has been one of those to benefit.

The youngster was left traumatized after an explosion at her house in Gaza’s Tel Al-Hawa neighborhood, an experience that has since regularly reduced her to tears and caused her to feel isolated and depressed.

But after getting involved in a music therapy scheme run by the Sununu Association for Culture and Arts and funded by the German GIZ organization, her stresses and fears have been significantly eased.

Reem listens to music without words during her weekly psychological support sessions organized as part of the Enjoy Your Life with Music initiative.

Program coordinator, Rania Al-Shurihi, said Reem’s mental health had improved dramatically as a result of her treatment, adding that the association also held group sessions for Gazans suffering from the psychological effects of years of war and economic hardship.

Music therapy gained official recognition after World War II in successfully dealing with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and it is now used to treat a range of conditions including chronic pain, anxiety, depression, heart irregularities, and blood pressure issues.

Al-Shurihi pointed out that sometimes exposing people to sad music helped them shed negative energy through crying but added that happy and relaxing music incorporating the sound of rain and waves could have similar positive outcomes.

She noted that psychological pressure often generated the need to listen to music or readings from the Holy Qur’an for relaxation.

Mental health specialists also use therapeutic methods such as writing, cooking, sailing, and breathing exercises to relieve tensions.

“Despite society’s inherited and negative view of mental health center visitors, the success of the music therapy experience has greatly contributed to changing these concepts,” Al-Shurihi said.

Experts believe that many children living in Gaza suffer from psychological damage related to the conflict including depression, anxiety, behavioral disorders, urinary incontinence, and nervous mood swings.

According to UNICEF figures, 1 million children live in Gaza which has witnessed four wars with Israel since 2008. The aid organization said the deadly conflict in May had a devastating impact on many youngsters after schools, health facilities, homes, and offices were damaged or flattened in missile attacks.

Al-Shurihi said it was important that music therapy continued to be offered in Gaza not just to tackle the effects of war but also the daily pressures of life faced by Palestinians.

“We all need psychological intervention to varying degrees. And through music, we seek to help the neediest people to overcome difficult circumstances and not drown in a sea of psychological crises,” she added.


Lebanese caught between old and new $100 banknotes

Lebanese caught between old and new $100 banknotes
Updated 08 December 2021

Lebanese caught between old and new $100 banknotes

Lebanese caught between old and new $100 banknotes
  • Banks and money changers deny taking commissions on old bills

BEIRUT: Lebanese money changers refusing to accept older $100 banknotes, known as “white notes,” is causing confusion, particularly after some people were charged an extra $5 fee for exchanging $100 white bills.

Dozens of customers flocked to banks to learn more about the news, especially since some of the white $100 notes were issued by banks.

A customer told Arab News: “Every Lebanese is keeping a stack of $100 bills in their home for when they need them the most since the banks confiscated our deposits, and no one dares to deposit a single dollar in the bank nowadays.”

He added: “I went to my bank to inquire about this new rule adopted by money changers. My daughter told me that one refused to exchange the $100 that she gave him, claiming it was an old edition and he had the right to take $5 as commission if she wanted to exchange it. Who gave them the right to do this? I, my wife and my children all work and we save whatever we make in dollars. Does this mean that our savings have become worthless?”

He said: “The bank manager told me that the problem is with money changers, not banks, since they do not have instructions to stop dealing with the old $100 bills; on the contrary, banks are using both the old and new editions. He suggested that I occasionally bring him $200 to $400, in exchange for which he would give me $50 bills until the issue with money changers is resolved.”

Over the past few days, the topic of “old, white” $100 and the “new, blue” $100 banknotes has dominated conversation.

Money transfer companies were also said to have refused to deal with the older notes. Some money changers have taken advantage of the ambiguity to impose a $10 fee for exchanging white $100 bills.

The confusion was said to said to have been stirred by one of the largest money shipping companies, shut down after it was subject to a judicial investigation into smuggling funds abroad after Oct. 17, 2019 — when the financial crisis hit Lebanon, and in light of which Banque du Liban froze transfers inside and outside Lebanon.

Mahmoud Murad, former head of the Syndicate of Money Changers, told Arab News: “This fad has been circulating in the Lebanese financial market for about a week now. We do not know its source, nor who invented it. The problem is that people believe anything in Lebanon.”

He added: “People who come to my business to buy dollar bills only accept the blue-colored edition now. We, as money changers, are buying and selling both the old and new editions; nothing has changed.”

Murad said: “If the $100 notes are worn-out or torn, we buy them from people but never sell them again. Instead, we give them to shipping companies to return them to the US and replace them with brand-new ones.

“But everyone in Lebanon is now a money changer. The Lebanese, the Syrian, the Sri Lankan, the Bengali, the supermarket cashier, the butcher, all engage in exchanging money. Money changers should not be blamed for this.”

Murad said that the Syndicate of Money Changers met on Wednesday and stressed that all money changers follow legal and moral rules when dealing with customers.

However, Banque du Liban revealed in a statement on Wednesday that “some banks and money changers have charged fees for exchanging $100 banknotes, claiming that they are outdated.”

It added: “The specifications of valid $100 notes are determined by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, an agency affiliated with the US Treasury,” noting: “BDL alone determines the specifications of valid Lebanese currency.”

The US Embassy in Lebanon also stated on Wednesday that “it is US government policy that all designs of Federal Reserve notes remain legal tender, or legally valid for payments, regardless of when they were issued. This policy includes all denominations of Federal Reserve notes, from 1914 to present.”

Meanwhile, the Association of Banks in Lebanon announced that “after the great controversy surrounding some money changers taking commissions on old $100 bills, ABL would like to clarify that Lebanese banks deal with banknotes without any amendment to existing procedures. No additional fee is charged for accepting white $100 banknotes.”

OMT Exchange also stated that it “has not stopped accepting white $100 bills, if they are in good condition, and no additional fee is charged at any of our centers. OMT does not accept any banknotes that are torn, burnt, yellowed, or even partially damaged.”


Kuwait detects first case of omicron variant

Kuwait detects first case of omicron variant
Updated 08 December 2021

Kuwait detects first case of omicron variant

Kuwait detects first case of omicron variant
  • The variant was detected in a European traveler who arrived from an African country

KUWAIT: Kuwait has detected its first case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, state news agency KUNA reported on Wednesday.
The variant was detected in a European traveler who arrived to Kuwait from an African country where the variant had been detected, KUNA reported, citing a health ministry spokesman.
Speaking to KUNA, Dr. Abdullah Al-Sanad said the traveler had received both dosages of the COVID-19 vaccine previously and now he is under institutional quarantine, according to the health protocol.
He added that the ministry has taken necessary precautions since several nations announced discovering the new variant.
Currently, the pandemic situation in Kuwait is stable, according to Al-Sanad, however, citizens and residents have been advised to take the booster shot to help the ministry curb the spread.
Studies have shown that current vaccines are effective against omicron, he stressed.
On Wednesday, health authorities recorded 18 recoveries, one death and 33 new coronavirus infections, bringing the cases to a total of 413,588 in Kuwait.


Jordanian politicians stage walk out over ‘energy-for-water’ deal with Israel

Jordanian politicians stage walk out over ‘energy-for-water’ deal with Israel
Updated 08 December 2021

Jordanian politicians stage walk out over ‘energy-for-water’ deal with Israel

Jordanian politicians stage walk out over ‘energy-for-water’ deal with Israel
  • The two countries and the UAE signed a declaration of intent on Nov. 22 to explore the feasibility of a the joint project

AMMAN: MPs in Jordan walked out of a parliamentary session on Wednesday in protest against the presence of the minister who signed a controversial “energy-for-water” agreement with Israel and the UAE.

Amid angry scenes, veteran MP Saleh Al-Armouti threatened to walk out if the minister remained. Without mentioning the minister by name, Al-Armouti said: “Someone who signed a deal with the Zionist enemy, either he leaves the hall or I leave. I don’t allow his presence (in the chamber).”

When speaker Abdulkarim Al-Dughmi accused Al-Armouti of violating parliamentary rules, the latter walked out of the session and was joined by a majority of MPs, which meant that there was no longer a quorum in the House. A majority of the remaining lawmakers voted in favor of a proposal to hold a special session to discuss the energy agreement.

The declaration of intent to explore the feasibility of a joint energy-for-water project was signed at Expo 2020 Dubai on Nov. 22 by Jordan’s Minister of Water and Irrigation Mohammad Al-Najjar, the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment Mariam Al-Mheiri, and Israel’s Energy Minister Karine Elharrar.

At the time, the Jordanian government said the declaration was “neither a technical nor legal agreement” and only means that the three nations will begin to carry out feasibility studies early next year for the megaproject. It added that resource-poor Jordan would receive 200 million cubic meters of water a year under the proposed project.

In the past two weeks, hundreds of Jordanians have marched in Amman in protest against the agreement, demanding the resignation of the government over the “shameful deals” with Israel.

Water and Irrigation Ministry spokesperson Omar Salameh previously pointed out that Jordan obtains 35 million cubic meters of water annually from Israel under the 1994 Wadi Araba Peace Treaty between the two countries, and another 10 million cubic meters as a result of a deal in 2010. In October, Jordan signed an agreement with Israel to purchase an additional 50 million cubic meters of water.

A few days before water-far-energy agreement was signed, US news website Axios reported that a massive solar-energy farm will be built in the Jordanian desert as part of a project to generate clean energy that would be sold to Israel in return for desalinated water. Axios said the solar facility would be built by Masdar, the renewable-energy company owned by the Emirati government.

The plans reportedly call for the solar farm to be operational by 2026 and supply 2 percent of Israel’s energy requirements by 2030, with Israel paying $180 million a year that would be divided between the Jordanian government and the Emirati company.