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Australian activist runs across dry Turkish lake for water awareness

Mina Guli, an Australian businessperson who embarked on a journey to raise awareness of global water challenges, was at Türkiye’s Lake Tuz this week where she ran a marathon on the dry parts of the country’s second-largest lake.

This was Guli’s 77th marathon in a journey where she aims to reach 200 in all continents. Guli calls her campaign “Run Blue” and seeks to inspire companies and connect people to take meaningful action on water, ahead of first global United Nations water conference in decades on World Water Day, on March 22, 2023.

She is no stranger to running campaigns and in 2016, she ran 40 marathons in seven deserts on seven continents in seven weeks to raise awareness for the global water crisis. This year, Guli, who is also founder of the Thirst Foundation, started out her new journey in her native Australia before running marathons in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. In Türkiye, she ran on Pamukkale, famed for its white travertines, in the western provinces of Aydın and Antalya. In Konya, where Lake Tuz is located, she ran past notorious sinkholes in the Karapınar district before continuing on to Lake Tuz.

On a dried part of the lake and on a layer of salt that gives the lake its Turkish name, Guli ran for 42 kilometers (26 miles). “I am honored to be here and pleased with the Turkish people’s hospitality,” she told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Thursday. “I am running to spur the companies that use the majority of clean water resources directly or indirectly and governments to take action. We are in the middle of a great water crisis globally and it is ‘invisible,’” she said. By “invisibility” she is referring to the use of water in industrial production, from food to textiles.

During her “marathons” in Türkiye, Guli says she was worried after seeing “giant sinkholes.” “Shrinking underground waters cause it and we can take action to prevent it. For instance, we can change our way of irrigation,” she says.

She described Lake Tuz as “incredibly beautiful” but added that it shrunk over the years due to climate change.

Guli will finish the Türkiye phase of her campaign in Istanbul before heading to Europe to run in Bulgaria first before moving to other countries, including her last planned stopover United Kingdom.

Water stress driven by climate change is already affecting billions of people. UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) warn that by 2030, 1.6 billion people will be left without safely managed drinking water services, and 2.8 billion will not have safely managed sanitation.

Without altering current levels of water consumption and pollution, almost half of the world’s population will struggle to meet their water needs and to have access to water by 2030 due to climate change and population growth, a new report from the International Resource Panel (IRP), a consortium of 27 internationally renowned scientists, 33 national governments and other groups, with communities without access to safe drinking water and sanitation, as well as water for agriculture and energy. With the increasing understanding of the importance of water, new institutions are being established around the world to carry out studies aimed at tackling water scarcity. In March, experts launched a new global commission to study the value of the world’s water in order to contend with worsening water woes. Comprised of economists, scientists, community leaders and policymakers, the commission will investigate governance models to protect water resources. The commission also may consider pushing for a global price for freshwater, similar to what is being attempted with carbon markets.

For water-stressed Türkiye, keeping groundwater flowing without losses is crucial, both for its agricultural sector and to be prepared for the uncertainties that the future may bring, with the climate crisis triggering dry spells.

Water going to waste is the primary concern for authorities in the country embattled with drought last year. Moreover, its prevention is expected to put back millions of Turkish liras into the economy. Though home to an array of climates, Türkiye is mostly a semi-arid country, something especially risky in the era of climate change for agricultural lands concentrated in Anatolia that are far from the mild climate of the country’s western regions. It juggles its response to weather-related issues aggravated by the climate crisis, from floods in coastal areas to aggressive droughts in inner regions. The country launched a Water Council in October 2021, the first comprehensive effort to address water problems. It brought together everyone involved in the issue, from farmers to industrialists. Water losses in big cities were among problems highlighted in the debate at the council and beyond.

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