A study by WWF Turkey in the late 1980s showed that 40% of Turkey’s coastline had been severely damaged by mass tourism. Half of all turtle nesting beaches had already disappeared by then. To stop this, the Turkish government developed the ‘Integrated Coastal Management Approach’. Çirali was chosen to act as a guinea pig to implement this project. The project was led by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Turkey and Çirali became the example of sustainable tourism in the Mediterranean.
Çirali is a small coastal town south of Antalya that has moved from agriculture to tourism in recent decades. Çirali is located in one of the most important nature reserves of the Mediterranean. Tourism here slowly started in the late 1980s, given its isolated location, surrounded by the high mountains of the Olympos national park. But of course Çirali couldn’t stay behind either, the tourist dollars beckoned. The construction of tourist facilities had their downside on the sea turtles that lived here in large numbers. There was also no control over the construction of facilities, causing illegal constructions to run rampant. In 1997 WWF Turkey launched a 3-year project to develop tourism in Çirali in a sustainable way. The pillars? Protecting nature and creating environmentally friendly economic opportunities for the local population. The local population was actively involved in the implementation of the project. They served as patrons of ecological heritage. Information on their responsibility for nature and the environment was therefore essential. The programme also included the creation of sustainable economic activities, such as organic farming and ecotourism. The other ingredients of the successful project was the application of coastal laws (e.g. limiting new developments) and protecting nesting beaches for turtles. By educating locals and tourists, constant monitoring of the beaches and organising clean-up operations, the number of nests has grown again. The locals are committed to protecting the turtles, because it makes them unique and the tourists come to Çirali especially for this. A sustainable destination after all.
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