Environmentalists in Turkey’s eastern province of Van are concerned about high numbers of fish found dead in the Zilan River, increasing the danger of the Erciş barbel, a freshwater fish unique to the region, going extinct.
The environmentalists believe that fish have been dying due to decreasing water levels, which they link to a hydroelectric power plant built on the river.
“The fish deaths happening here are not natural. They are dying of lack of oxygen and the lowering water level. And this is related either to the State Water Works, which holds water for dams, or the hydroelectric power plant shifting the waterways,” Ali Kalçık, head of Van Environment and Ecology Foundation, told Gazete Duvar.
Kalçık added that the lowering water level has brought the freshwater fish endemic to the region to the point of extinction. “This is savage. If Zilan’s waters are kept captive, their habitat will disappear. The Zilan needs to flow freely,” Kalçık said.
Müjdat Ceyhan, a local from a village near the Zilan, told Gazete Duvar that the villagers have been witnessing fish dying in massive numbers for the last two years.
“Last year thousands of carp died that way. This is totally related to the pollution in water. The municipality has to do something about it. Rubbish is not being collected, there is no sewage system. All the filth flows into the streams,” he said.
Van is one of a number of provinces in Turkey where all municipality works are managed by trustees appointed by the government to replace elected mayors from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which they justified with accusations of terrorism.
Scientists and environmentalists have for years been warning the authorities that the Erciş barbel (Barbus Plebejus Ercisianus) is facing the risk of extinction due to waterworks around small rivers that endanger the freshwater fish of the region.