Trying to Keep Pamukkale White....
.... a reader's report ....

I recently visited the world-famous white "cotton castle" of Pamukkale in Southern Turkey on behalf of Mother Earth. As I approached the area I saw a plateau, rising more than 100m higher that the level of the river valley. This valley is covered with white travertine terraces.

The source of this natural wonder is a hot spring, which bubbles from the foot of the Cal Dagi mountains, saturated with dissolved calcium bicarbonate. The water comes from the ground at a constant temperature of 35 degrees centigrade.

As the water flows over the edge of the plateau and cools, the calcium carbonate precipitates as hard chalk (travertine). What is there today has been accumulating for millennia, as the solidified waterfall advances southwest.

The therapeutic benefits of the water, reputedly beneficial to the skin and in the alleviation of rheumatism, have been known since ancient times. The remains of Hierapolis, built in the second century BC, can still be seen.

Unfortunately, the effect of increasing tourism is turning the white to grey and drying up the thermal pools on the unique terraces. Hotels have channelled the water which provides the whiteness to the terraces - to their own pools. When I checked hotels were charging £4 to swim in their pools. Previously one could bathe in the waters on the terraces free. Visitors cause pollution by walking on the terraces and dropping litter.

The terraces are not as they were -- the flow of water has decreased to a trickle. The pools on the ledges are shallow or empty. Cigarette butts and other refuse floats in the water.

There are, however hopeful signs. UNESCO started an environmental protection plan for the area in 1992. The Turkish government has instigated a five year "Keep Pamukkale White" Campaign. The First International Pammukkale Music and Culture Festival was held last year. The aim of the organising committee is to publicise the pollution and gradual destruction of the terraces and to contribute to the campaign to restore them to their former glory.

I hope that the hotels will be closed, and that there is no attempt to simply restrict the access of visitors to the terraces. By all means build a bridge for visitors to view the terraces but this is a secondary issue to the diversion of water by the hotels.

If you are interested in finding more about how the Turkish government is progressing with its campaign to "keep Pamukkale White" write to your local Turkish Embassy.