The legendary and spiritually revered Munzur Valley which lies between northwest of Dersim city and the town of Ovacık in Turkey, is in danger of losing many of its natural properties.
With holy sites scattered all around Munzur, the valley is also the spiritual heartland of the Alevi people, who practice a mystical faith with strong shamanistic and Zoroastrian roots, have a complicated relationship to Islam, and an intimate and sacred connection to the natural world especially the Munzur Valley.
The valley is one of the most vast and richest biodiversity areas in the whole country, and a unique habitat for many species. It was registered as a national park in 1971 in accordance with the Forest Act.
Hosting, in an area over 100,000 acres, thousands of species including 1,500 plant species 227 of which are endemic, and rare animals including the Bezoar Ibex , a type of wild mountain goat, the woolly dormouse, a species of rodent endemic to Turkey, the Eurasian lynx and martens, weasel-like carnivores as well as many others. The park has become a place for picnics with roads built along the Munzur river without any control over vehicle traffic or the huge amounts of littering that is caused by visitors unaware and uniformed of the damge that is being done to the environment by discarding rubbish on the valley.
Speaking to MA, “There are no environmental measures taken or park officers to guide and inform the visitors” said Barış Yıldırım, a lawyer living in Dersim.
Yıldırım strongly criticises the road construction along the valley.
“A total area of 400 metres on both sides along the Munzur river is supposed to be a ‘protected zone’, and this means that this patch is absolutely forbidden to any human intervention” he continues. “Therefore, its natural landscape should be preserved. But the road constructed within this perimeter has already changed the landscape.”
He also underlines the threat posed by the vehicle traffic, adding that animals trying to cross the road to reach the river are constantly being killed by fast moving cars.
He says that on top of the landscape degradation, trees have also been cut down during the road construction.
Yıldırım says that the Munzur Valley should be urgently included in the World Cultural Heritage List, emphasising that this is perhaps the only way it can be protected from further damage.