30 Jan 2019

Victory: flamingo haven Gediz Delta saved from mega-bridge construction

Following a successful court case lead by Doğa (BirdLife in Turkey), the proposal to build a mega-bridge spanning the Izmir Bay has been permanently dropped. The project would have destroyed crucial breeding islands for the Greater Flamingo and irreparably changed the delicate ecosystem.

Gediz Delta supports a third of Europe's Greater Flamingos © Ron Knight / Flickr
Gediz Delta supports a third of Europe's Greater Flamingos © Ron Knight / Flickr
By Jessica Law

Every year, fifteen thousand pairs of Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus descend upon Gediz Delta, a stunning and unique wetland uniting the Gediz River and the Aegean Sea. There, they build their characteristic volcano-shaped nests and raise their young, before setting off once again on their annual migration. This unique ecosystem is so rich in food and suitable habitat that it supports ten percent of the world population, and thirty percent of the European population of Greater Flamingo. And it’s not just flamingos – rare birds such as the Red-breasted Goose Branta ruficollis (Vulnerable) and Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus (Near Threatened) also find refuge here, alongside a thriving abundance of other wildlife.

But in March 2017, it almost risked being damaged beyond repair. A proposal for a mega-bridge connecting the Southern and Northern coasts of the Izmir Bay was, shockingly, approved by Turkey’s Ministry of Environment and Urbanization – despite the fact that Gediz Delta is an internationally protected wetland, qualifying as a Key Biodiversity Area, an Imbportant Bird and Biodiversity Area and a Ramsar site. Doga (BirdLife in Turkey) sprang into action, launching a nationwide campaign and court case to cancel this devastating development.

Gediz Delta's stunning landscape could have been scarred forever © Doğa

Backed up by allies across the country and an in-depth scientific report, the court case argued that the bridge would not only destroy crucial breeding islands and foraging areas, but also cause a catastrophic decline in the number of brine shrimp on which flamingos feed, eliminating a vital link in the food chain. Their hard work paid off – in August 2018, the Administrative Court of Izmir Province halted the project as a precautionary measure, after stating that the previous Environmental Impact Assessment had not provided enough information. This month came with the fantastic news that the development has been permanently dropped. This ground-breaking success proves that campaigning and activism can – and does – have a real impact.

General Manager of Doğa, Dicle Tuba Kilic stated that: “Doğa has been struggling with many development projects that would fragment and destroy the Gediz Delta since the organisation [was] established. This historical victory is not only important for the delta but also for the entire Mediterranean Basin and other wetlands in Turkey… Doga will continue to defend and promote the delta with the partnerships and alliances at different levels. ”