Right in the middle of Türkiye’s “breadbasket,” the fertile Konya Plain in the eponymous province is troubled by the proliferation of sinkholes. Sinkholes of all sizes threaten agricultural activities and are now closer to residential areas. The latest count shows their number exceeded 2,600.
Experts attribute the proliferation to the increasing use of underground water which reinforces the soil above. Depleted of water, the soil rapidly sinks, leaving farmers with giant holes in their fields.
Sinkholes are mostly sighted in the Cihanbeyli, Yunak, Kulu, Sarayönü and Kadınhanı districts of Konya which is known for high cereal production. The Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and Sinkhole Application Research Center of Konya Technical University closely monitor the development of sinkholes, looking for ways to prevent their formation. Current data shows the sinkholes are “progressing” toward more significant locations like populated regions, energy investment areas and places with high agricultural activity, unlike their past emergence in mostly isolated places.
The director of the Sinkhole Application Research Center, professor Fetullah Arık, says underground water levels are still low despite heavy precipitation last year. “We still have a 10 to 15 meters drop in water levels. This year, we had less precipitation compared to 2021, both in Konya and elsewhere in Türkiye. The new agricultural season is about to begin but the water is still at negative levels,” he warned.
Arık said they detected some 700 sinkholes that are deeper than a meter and about 1,800 shallower sinkholes with a depth of less than a meter across Konya. “Their concentration varies but they spread to different districts. In Karapınar (where most sinkholes concentrated in recent years), we found eight more sinkholes,” he told Ihlas News Agency (IHA) on Sunday.
He added that sinkholes would always “exist” but human activities affect the rise in their number. “The main cause, for now, is drought, combined with increased, uncontrolled use of underground water. People still cultivate plants needing a large amount of water for irrigation, like beetroot and corn. Konya has no outside water supplies from rivers like other basins, thus, any drop in underground water levels increases the number of sinkholes,” he added.