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Save #ArasRiverBirdParadise, Turkey @RT_Erdogan @BA_Yildirim @mehmetozhaseki @VeyselEroglu

This petition had 63,702 supporters

In Turkey’s Congress (TBMM) on June 6th 2012, in honor of the World Environment Day, congressman Sinan Oğan of Iğdır Province asked Turkey’s Minister of Forestry and Water Affairs Veysel Eroğlu to protect the Aras River Bird Paradise of Iğdır. More bird species (264) have been recorded at the Aras River wetlands, Eastern Turkey’s richest wetland for birds, than at Turkey’s biggest Lake Van that is nearly 400 times larger.

Minister Eroğlu promised to protect the Aras River Bird Paradise, stating that it is "our moral obligation":

Please fax or write to: 

Minister of Forestry and Water Affairs PROF. DR. VEYSEL EROĞLU
Söğütözü Cad. No: 14/E – ANKARA/TURKEY

Tel: +90 312 207 62 62   Fax: +90 312 207 62 99 E-mail:

*Most of Turkey’s bird species and half of Turkey’s land animal species have been recorded at 10 km2 Aras River Bird Paradise (40º07' N, 43º35' E), making it the richest wetland for birds in an area as big as Germany or Montana.

*Aras River Bird Research and Education Center, founded by biology professor Dr. Çağan Șekercioğlu of University of Utah in 2006, is one of the few long-term ecological research sites in Turkey. With nearly 80,000 birds ringed (banded), it is the one of two most productive ringing stations in the country.

*This wetland hosts 19 bird, 8 mammal, and 7 reptile and amphibian species globally threatened or near threatened with extinction. Another 12 bird species found here are threatened with extinction in Turkey. 

*It meets the first four Ramsar criteria (1-4) of a Wetland of International Importance. Even one is enough to be a Ramsar Wetland:

*Aras River Bird Paradise lies at the junction of the Iran-Anatolian and Caucasus Global Biodiversity Hotspots.

*It is also at the meeting point of Aras River and Iğdır Plains Key Biodiversity Areas and Important Bird Areas, none of which have official protection.

We welcome your support for this critical campaign to ask Minister Eroğlu to keep his word and to ensure the immediate cancellation of the Tuzluca Dam, which would destroy the Aras River Bird Paradise and three villages under 45 meters of water.

Help us stop the Tuzluca dam and save the Aras River Bird Paradise

There is no alternative to the Aras River Bird Paradise, but there are many alternatives for agricultural irrigation. The Aras Valley has provided critical ecosystem services such as clean water, fertile soil and abundant resources to humanity and all living things for thousands of years. Now the fate of this valley is in the hands of Turkey’s government authorities.

This is one of the world’s most important wetlands for birds. If the Tuzluca dam is constructed in the Aras Valley, the feeding, breeding and wintering areas for at least 264 bird species and 109 mammal, reptile and amphibian species will be destroyed. This includes 34 vertebrate animal species threatened or near threatened with extinction. Half of all vertebrate land animal species in Turkey has been recorded here. Birds ringed (banded) and satellite-tracked at this wetland by KuzeyDoğa were recorded to migrate to and from three continents and dozens of countries, including Cyprus, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, and Zambia.

How would you feel if your home was destroyed when you returned? Aras Valley hosts hundreds of thousands of birds every spring and autumn during their migration. In addition, this region provides critical habitat for dozens of other animal species and hundreds of plant species. Every year, local people and visitors witness the spectacular wildlife and enthusiastically embrace the cycle of life.

In this hot and arid region with massive erosion, instead of constructing a wasteful irrigation dam that will lose water to evaporation and fill with erosion, government officials should use drip irrigation and protect this globally important wetland. This dam is also a waste of taxpayer money. It will flood three villages of 1800 people, rich agricultural and grazing land, fruit orchards, a major bridge, railroad routes and kilometers of highways that will have to be rebuilt into steep, erosion-prone hills.

In this subtropical region experiencing global warming, the creation of a large body of water is also likely to increase incidences of diseases such as typhoid, malaria and leishmaniasis, as it happened after the building of large dams in the southeastern Turkey GAP project. In a scientific paper Norman Gratz reported that in 1990, 552 cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis were reported from the area of the GAP project, but in the first 9 months of 1994, there were over 3000 cases reported. In areas around the GAP irrigation project, malaria rose from 705 cases in 1990 to 5125 in 1993. These diseases and their vectors are endemic to the Iğdır region and water-intensive rice cultivation in Iğdır in the 1970’s was terminated due to the increased incidence of malaria.

Strict protection of this wetland would help Eastern Turkey’s efforts to become an international center of ecotourism and allow the Aras River Bird Paradise to continue as an international center of ecological and ornithological research. Nearly 80,000 birds of 264 species were recorded during ten years of bird ringing (banding) research conducted by the KuzeyDoğa Society at Aras Bird Research and Education Center in the village of Yukarı Çıyrıklı, Tuzluca, Iğdır. Most of the 483 bird species ever recorded in Turkey live in this very important wetland. During KuzeyDoğa’s ornithological research, more than one hundred new bird species not previously recorded in Iğdır province were identified, including the new addition of the Shikra (Accipiter badius) to Turkey's bird species list. More bird species were recorded at Aras River Bird Paradise, an area of 10 km2, than the 3755 km2 Lake Van, Turkey’s biggest. Thousands of nature lovers have come from dozens of countries and some stay for months. This ecotourism hotspot has been featured in local, national and international press hundreds of times. U.S. National Geographic Society Committee on Research and Exploration was amazed by the Aras River wetlands and National Geographic Society had a second visit to Aras in 2013.

Despite its great ecological importance as one of the most biodiverse wetlands in Turkey and years of reports and official petitions prepared and submitted by KuzeyDoğa Society documenting this, the Aras River Bird Paradise is currently not even considered an “Official Wetland” by the government.  This is to enable the construction of the dam, which has been declared without the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement. This paradise for biodiversity and the surrounding villages are about to be destroyed under the waters of the expensive and short-lived Tuzluca dam. The same Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs that stated that Aras River Bird Paradise deserves Turkey's highest level of protection (Tabiati Koruma Alani), is planning to build the dam!

Support the campaign before it is too late and before this wetland paradise is destroyed along with all the living things that depend on it, including villages, orchards and productive agricultural land. Help us ensure that Minister Eroğlu will keep his promise and “moral obligation” to protect the Aras River Bird Paradise.

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