In Alaçatı (Αλατσάτα) near Izmir (Σμύρνη) it is quite warm in upper 20’s and mostly sunny still. However, a short bike ride away there is the town refuse serving Alaçatı, Çeşme and several other small towns. Curiously it’s private land and entrance is forbidden. A small road of 5 kilometers ridden with thrown away garbage leads to two separate dump areas. The first is an unprotected area of dirt approximately 2 square kilometers. Next to it stands gated and fenced “private trash dump” of at least 4-5 square kilometers. The first is frequented by unregistered garbage trucks which carry mainly disposals from nearby construction sites. The second is the home of “official garbage” collected by the dumpster trucks belonging to the municipalities. It now consists of mountains and mountains of everyday throw-aways as well as industrial waste from many local factories.
Upon arrival to the scene location of the town refuse aroze my utmost attention. It is very close to the sea (almost a mile), and also terribly close to many hotels (existing and to be built soon), the town Alaçatı and a village called Ovacık. A few small hills surrounding the area hide it from the sight from these residential areas, but it has been spoiling the soil as well as the air, and most probably the underground waters for many years now.
Çeşme peninsula is home to thousands of summer residences of people from Izmir and many other main cities around Turkey for over 40 years. Historically the ancient port of the region and home to several civilizations, (see: Erythrai) the area became infamous for its restored old Greek houses in Alaçatı, abandoned twice before and after the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in the turn of the previous century. Hosted more than 13000 Greeks around 1890’s, Alaçatı is unique in its size and uniqueness of its architecture. During summer season it is now frequanted by both national and International celebrities. Alaçatı of today features a wide selection of International cuisine, boutique hotels, busy streets and many picture spots.
And yet, next door to Alaçatı lays an environmental disaster happening hidden from sight, but crawling to its door everyday as both establishments get bigger and bigger every passing year.
On my way back, near what I call trash dump number 1, I noticed a stray dog. (Pictured on this page) He was sick beyond measure and moved terribly slow. His skin was full of blemishes on areas that were close to the ground. Moles of every color and shape and many tumors filled his stomach. Abrasions were so big and were covering so much of his poor body he was in big pain and it showed. Upon examination, local veterinary claimed that the animal was poisoned by undetermined chemicals and should immediately be put to sleep since he was in constant pain. (No decision yet)
Alaçatı, as it became a primary attraction for visitors from every walk of life, also slowly becoming an example of unplanned urban growth and an environmental disaster at the same time. Every year, to make space for new restaurants and joints several trees are being taken down. In the city, narrow streets are occupied and altered by greedy constructors to make space for new buildings. Public squares are rented out in whole to store owners by the municipality as favors. The surrounding areas are filled with cement condominiums and greed keeps on constructing until the last tree standing would fall.
In my humble opinion Aegean is one of the most precious of Earth’s legacy both naturally and historically, and its preservation is so important to be let into the hands of unscrouplous local politicians whose success depends only on revaluation of the land. A social disaster is brewing next door and stands hidden behind some hills until its effects would be so big to fit there.