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Marmara Lake endangered ecosystem, Turkey


In Marmara Lake and its surroundings agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing and hunting activities are practiced. Hence, the lake is adversely affected by anthropogenic problems. The lake ecosystem faces four major problems: Hunting: Intensive hunting with too many hunters wandering around the lake and disturbing bird populations (majority of whom are licensed hunters but also a significant number of poachers) Agricultural activities: Activities such as the conversion of coastal sand/mud flats to agricultural fields. Lake water level’s drops because of droughts and rare irrigation periods (which are rented by the local villagers), deliberate burning of reed beds to open new agricultural fields, and eutrophication of the lake waters. This is a result of excessive use of fertilisers in the fields surrounding the lake due for commercial purposes and resulting leaching to the lake via rainfall or groundwater; it causes serious damages to the lake ecosystem.

Invasive species: an other problem in the lake is the introduction of the invasive Prussian Carp (Carassius gibelio) which is known to feed other fishes’ eggs thus reducing the fish diversity. The introduction of this species, which has little commercial value, is critical in terms of biodiversity and fishing activities.

Gordes Dam: Yet another problem is the Gordes Dam that is constructed on Kumcay river which feeds the lake from the North. Built with the objective of providing drinking water to Izmir and completed in 2004, the dam is still not operational. Once it becomes operational, it is foreseen that an important part of the water feeding the lake will be cut off. Since the lake water is already being used for irrigation, water is being transferred from Demirkopru Dam through a channel.

Despite all these problems, for the time being, there aren’t any local groups involved in any protective actions or resistance. While one national environmental NGO, Doga Dernegi, tries to act against those problems, the local population using the lake as their livelihood have not yet any interests in that matter.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Marmara Lake endangered ecosystem, Turkey
Location of conflict:Golmarmara, Manisa
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Dams and water distribution conflicts
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Invasive species
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Situated in Western Anatolia, Marmara Lake is a shallow freshwater lake and is among Turkey’s 184 Important Bird Areas (IBA). Until 1950 it was a natural lake when it was intended to be transformed to a reservoir via the construction of a retention wall in the southwestern part of the lake in order to prevent floods and to meet the needs of the regions agricultural water. Despite these developments, extensive reed beds located in the north of the lake provides an important feeding, sheltering and breeding habitat for many water birds. Herons and cormorants that breed in colonies nest on the willow trees in this region. Globally threatened Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus) winters in great numbers in Marmara Lake during winter months.

Project area:6912
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:1950
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs, General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks, Manisa Governorship, th Regional Directorate of Forestry and Water Affairs, General Directorate of National Estate, nd Regional Directorate of State Hydraulic Works, Manisa Provincial Agricultural Directorate, Ege University, Celal Bayar University, Golmarmara Municipality.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Doga Dernegi (Nature Association)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Public campaigns


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Fires, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsPotential: Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases
Other Health impactsPoisoning
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood
Other socio-economic impactsLoss of income, difficulties in access to water


Project StatusUnknown
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:While there is a conservation boundary decided for the Marmara Lake, there is no clear Management Plan. This boundary was proposed in a workshop, as part of the Regulation on The Conservation of Wetlands, at the end of 2007, organised in order to determine the regional boundaries of the wetland for conservation as in other wetlands of Turkey. There is no information about projects aiming neither to prepare the site’s management plan nor to conserve the biodiversity following these activities.
To prevent the illegal hunting in the area, General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks Manisa branch gives trainings to the members of Manisa Hunting Federation, controls as much as possible the hunting licenses in the field and fines the illegal hunters. Despite these constructive efforts the hunting activities are not at the desired level.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Master Thesis by Orhan Gul (Ege University, 2008, in Turkish)

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Info on Marmara Lake and bird life (in English):

Marmara Lake is drying (Milliyet, 11 August 2008; Newspaper article in Turkish):

Info on the Campaign of the Doga Dernegi (Nature Association) for Marmara Lake (in Turkish):

Other comments:0

Meta information

Contributor:Orhan Gul
Last update08/04/2014



View on the Marmara lake, Western Anatolia, Turkey