Turkey's national gardens and green areas play a vital role as the country's "windpipe," Turkey's president said in a speech on Saturday marking World Environment Day.
"Just as our hospitals have vital in protecting our nation's health during this pandemic, our green areas, and especially our national gardens, have served as a windpipe for our people," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the opening of a national garden in Istanbul.
Erdogan underlined that along with 10 other national gardens and several wastewater treatment and waste collection facilities, the event also marked the start of work on 37 Blue Flag public beaches, 38 protected areas, 120 protection monitoring areas and 84 memorial trees across the country.
- 61 national gardens opened so far
Over the past 20 years, the increasing area of parks and gardens has been crucial in reducing air pollution in Turkish cities, said Erdogan, adding that 61 national gardens have been opened to public use so far.
"We rolled up our sleeves to build 324 national gardens covering a total area of 56 million square meters [602.8 million square feet] throughout our country," he said.
"Eighty national gardens with an area of 10 million square meters in 46 provinces are currently under construction. In addition, our work on 183 national gardens across the country is at the project and tender stage."
Citing tree-planting efforts in Istanbul province, the president said that under his government, officials had opted to import 10-15-year-old trees instead of planting saplings, which he said would "take time" to grow.
Underlining that all of Turkey's 81 provinces now had more green areas, he vowed to accelerate tree-planting activities in the future.
He added that bicycle paths were also a route to improving the quality of life for city residents, who he encouraged to use bicycles for better health and to reduce traffic, especially in metropolitan cities, where people's physical activities are gradually decreasing.
"When we complete the Turkish Bicycle Path Master Plan, which we continue to prepare, we'll integrate our country with the EU Bicycle Network."
Erdogan said that once the paths are complete, a cyclist would be able to safely and easily ride from the northwestern Edirne province to the southeastern Hakkari province of the country.
- Water sources
The Turkish president also highlighted the rising importance of conserving underground and above-ground water sources as "drought is becoming an ever-greater threat."
"We've managed to control methane and carbon dioxide emissions emitted from garbage, one of the most important causes of global warming, with the solid waste collection facilities we built," he said, adding that the number of solid waste collection facilities in the country has increased from 15 to 90.
"Another important investment in protecting human health and preventing water pollution is wastewater treatment plants. We've increased the number of wastewater treatment plants in our country from 145 to 1,170 and made them capable of serving 90% of the municipal population," he added.
"Thanks to developing technology, it's now possible to use wastewater in many different areas. We also support investments and work in this direction," Erdogan said.
Reporting by Hanife Sevinc, Berk Ozkan and Hatice Senses
Writing by Merve Berker