Boğaziçi University’s Contribution to “Clean Ergene” Project

 Boğaziçi University will identify the impact of pollution on Ergene Basin via “pollutant fingerprints”

Assistant Prof. Ulaş Tezel and Prof. Işıl Balcıoğlu of Boğaziçi University Institute of Environmental Sciences are two of the researchers working on the TÜBİTAK project which aims to identify the pollutants discharged into the Ergene River as well as examining the effects of these pollutants on the river basin. When the project is completed, a software will be developed to manage the water quality of  Ergene Basin.


The Ergene Basin covers an area of 12,438.2km²,the majority of it being  farmland.  Assistant Prof. Ulaş Tezel indicated that Ergene Basin is under the influence of pollution originating from untreated domestic waste water, leachates from open landfill sites, wastewater from textile, food and chemical industries and agricultural and livestock activities. Tezel continued; “ I was born and raised in Lüleburgaz. Therefore, I was able to witness the environmental changes that took place in the basin since the mid-80’s. After the mid-80’s a rapid industrialization began and as of today, there are 2037 industrial plants operating in the basin.  The daily industrial waste water produced in the basin is 460 thousand cubic meters. When the domestic wastewater is added to this number, the total wastewater reaches 700,000 cubic meters. The freightening side of this is that the discharged wastewater is six times the amount of the river flow itself, almost like a wastewater canal. Under the Ergene Basin Conservation Action Plan, The Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs is in the process of building a new wastewater treatment plants and monitoring stations  to inspect the water quality of the Ergene Basin. As a result of these measures, class 4 water (highly polluted) at the basin is aimed to be reduced to Class 3 water (contaminated) during 2016 and to Class 2 ( less contaminated) in 2020. The action plan calls for comprehensive and functional information systems to pursue the planned operations in a sustainable manner. Current Geographic Information System (GIS) prepared for the basin consists of the available data only. The content of this available data needs to be enhanced in order to determine the effects of measures taken to improve the water quality and additional input is needed to increase the efficiency of the current GIS for sustainable water consumption.

The project aims to enhance the scope and use of the existing pollutant data

 Tezel pointed out that, the pollution data parameters used in the Basin is limited to conventional water quality parameters such as chemical oxygen demans, total nitrogen, total phosphorus etc which do not give any specific information on the source they were emitted from and moreover, they do not give any insight on the toxic, mutagenic, carcinogenic and estrogenic properties of the pollutants released to the natural environment.

Assistant Prof. Tezel further explained that, “pollutant fingerprints”  can be used to determine where the pollutants are originating from. However, every point and diffuse pollutant source has a novel pollutant composition based on the chemicals and processes applied at that source. Since the pollutant composition is specific to the source, the term “pollutant fingerprint” is used. The impact of these sources on receiving bodies can be identified and the threat they impose to environmental and human health can be evaluated using “pollutant fingerprints”. In this project, they aim to integrate pollutant fingerprints of the pollution sources in the Ergene Basin into the GIS database and use this enhanced GIS to identify the pollution sources and their relative impact on the water quality of Ergene River.

The goal is to take effective measures for a clean Ergene

Asst. Prof. Tezel pointed out that functionality of the comprehensive GIS database containing the pollutant fingerprints will be further enhanced by integrating hydrological and pollutant transport models and consequently a new integrated functional decision making system will be created as a result of this project.

Tezel continued, “The project in hand is quite significant In terms of both budget and number of researchers involved, and other than Boğaziçi University, a total of 9 researchers from İstanbul Technical University (İTÜ), Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) , Kocaeli University, Namık Kemal University and Georgia Institute of Technology are present in the project. By developing the Functional Integrated Geographic Information Management System (FenCY), the evaluation of the performance of the activities carried out within the Ergene Basin protection action plan via identifying the pollutant sources and taking more effective measures towards these sources will be made possible. Our goal is to come together and take effective measures for a clean Ergene”.