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Pictures |  A unique lake in the world is threatened by its popularity

Pictures | A unique lake in the world is threatened by its popularity

With its turquoise waters and white sand, Lake Salda in southwest Turkey holds secrets that can help solve the mysteries of Mars. But its growing popularity threatens its existence today.

This massive body of water became famous when scientists from NASA began studying it a few years ago in preparation for the deployment of the rover probe to Mars.

France Press agency

Before the lander landed on the Red Planet in February, the US Space Agency shared a photo of Lake Salda, illustrating its importance in mission preparations.

Taking advantage of this exhibition, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chose to incorporate this 45-square-kilometer lake in a vast program aimed at creating more green spaces to welcome the public.

But in the face of this madness, local activists fear that the dual interest of NASA and Mr. Erdogan will open the gates of mass tourism and sign the lake’s execution warrant by destroying its ecosystem.

“The lake’s future is in danger if millions of tourists come,” warns Ghazi Osmak Sakar, president of the Lake Salda Conservation Society.

The lake is famous for its “white islands”, islets of bright white, as well as unique plants and animals, such as the frog fish Salda.

France Press agency

Rare minerals are also attracting NASA’s attention, like the substance-like hydrogenase spotted in Jezero Crater, where persistence has landed.

Scientists believe that the hydrogen found along the shore of Lake Salda is the remnant of clumps of microbes, rocks that were formed with the help of microbes.

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This material attracts the attention of researchers who are wondering if life existed on Mars in the form of microbes billions of years ago.

But what makes Lake Salda truly special, explains geological engineer Servet Seven, is its closed ecosystem.

What makes it so special are the bacteria, the single-celled organisms that live there. “We are alive, he is very fragile in the face of external influences,” he told AFP.

But this effect is already embodied in the form of nine barracks being built near a public park being developed near the lake.

“We have to cancel this project. The lake cannot be protected if it is exploited,” says Sakar.

France Press agency

While swimming is prohibited in the “White Islands” area, visitors can swim elsewhere in the lake.

Its defenders believe that swimming in the lake should be banned to protect its fragile ecosystem.

Engineer Sevni warns that “if a single-celled organism dies, Salda will be destroyed.” “The White Islands cannot be recreated,” he says.

If action is taken now, the lake could regenerate in 150 to 200 years, says Sevni. He said, “Otherwise, it would never get over.”

But the task is difficult. Thus the Salda Lake Conservation Association was rejected by the court that seized it to stop the development of the public park.

Saqr now calls on UNESCO to urge the lake to designate it a World Heritage Site, and pledged to protect it.

He said, “Salda is dying.”

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But these efforts collide with the economic interest sparked by the popularity of the site, which many residents hope to benefit from.

Suleiman Kilikan, a waiter who works at a lake-side café, says the number of visitors has risen dramatically since NASA learned about it.

“If there is tourism, there is life,” he says, noting that visitors are called to take responsibility. “They were told not to take sand or dirt.”

France Press agency

These tourist influxes have already begun to change the face of Salda.

“Our lake and village were much cleaner a few years ago,” says Isel Sage, a shepherd who lives near Salda.

It is clear that the Environment Ministry, aware of the danger, indicated last month that it wanted to limit the number of visitors annually to 570,000.

In 2019, 1.5 million people visited, and 800,000 in 2020, despite the epidemic.