Drought in the Lake Van Basin is causing water resources to decrease and Lake Van to lose area. With the decrease in precipitation in the Eastern Anatolia Region in recent years, the problem of drought is increasing. Since the water input of the Lake Van Basin depends on winter snow and rainfall, the danger of drought is becoming an even bigger problem. Measures need to be taken to prevent this situation.
Dr. Mustafa Akkuş from VAN Yüzüncü Yıl University stated that precipitation in the Eastern Anatolia Region has been below normal levels since 2018 and said, “Lake Van Basin is a closed basin and a place that should be evaluated separately within the Eastern Anatolia Region. The entire water input of the basin depends on snow and rainfall in winter. When we look at last year’s data, we see that there was a very severe drought in the northern part of Lake Van. We are entering a dry period. If we do not take precautions against this, if we still spend a lot of water like in the old days, unfortunately, much bigger problems await us.“
With the decrease in precipitation and increased evaporation in recent years, the water level of some water resources such as dams, lakes and ponds in the Lake Van Basin has decreased while others have dried up. Lake Van, which is the world’s largest soda lake, continues to lose area. The Bendimahi Stream in Muradiye district, one of the important breeding centers of the pearl mullet, which lives only in Lake Van but migrates to fresh waters during the breeding period, dried up this year before it could reach the lake. Van Yüzüncü Yıl University Faculty of Fisheries Lecturer Dr. Mustafa Akkuş said that drought is an immutable fact of the Eastern Anatolia Region and our country. Explaining that the Eastern Anatolia Region has been subjected to drought in the past, Dr. Akkuş said, “Especially in our recent history, that is, after the second half of the 19th century, great droughts have been experienced in this region approximately every 56 years. People flocked from villages to cities in large masses and left their places. They could not even get the seed wheat back from the field. Because when there is a drought, unfortunately, you have difficulty in finding the product to cook soup in your home, even the grass to feed your animals.” Explaining that precipitation in the Eastern Anatolia Region has fallen far below normal levels, especially since 2018, Dr. Akkuş stated that the Lake Van Basin should be kept separate at this point and said: “Because Lake Van Basin is a closed basin and therefore a place that should be evaluated separately within the Eastern Anatolia Region. In other words, the entire water input of the basin depends on the snow and rainfall in winter. When we look at the data from last year’s water year, we see that there was a very severe drought especially in Erçiş, Muradiye region, that is, in the northern part of Lake Van. We need to accept this. We are entering a dry period. If we do not take precautions for this, if we still spend a lot of water like in the old days, unfortunately, much, much bigger problems await us. We need to manage the risk, not the crisis. But unfortunately, we are taking rapid steps towards the crisis.”
‘PERHAPS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN ITS HISTORY, THE BENDİMAHİ STREAM COULD NOT REACH THE LAKE’
Prof. Dr. Akkuş said, “Every year, cultivated areas that require water are increasing. Therefore, this is not a sustainable situation. If this situation continues like this, unfortunately, there will be thousands of people who cannot grow crops in the coming years. Therefore, we need to take appropriate management plans and appropriate steps now. We still insist on planting plants that require a lot of water. The Lake Van Basin can no longer support this considering the amount of precipitation that falls on it. Many of our rivers are now almost unable to reach the lake. This year, perhaps for the first time in its history, Bendimahi Stream could not reach Lake Van due to wrong decisions. DSİ took all the water from the river bed and gave it to the fields, and the migration of the pearl mullet, which provides the livelihood of 20 thousand people in the basin, was interrupted in the stream. This shows us clearly and unambiguously. If we don’t want to face the same scenery this year and next summer, we need to think about it and take precautions in advance.”