The novel coronavirus pandemic has shown the importance of sustainable environment for human health, Turkey’s environment minister said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a biodiversity policy session of the Informal Meeting of Environment Ministers in the German capital Berlin, Murat Kurum stressed the key importance of a healthy nature for public health during COVID-19 pandemic.

“Biodiversity loss, along with climate change and pollution, affects ecosystems while also playing a role in emergence of infectious diseases at global level,” he also said during the session on COVID-19 and global biodiversity .

Touching on 2030 goals towards keeping the world’s nature safe, Kurum noted that reducing plastic waste to levels that are not harmful to human health by 2030 is a very valuable target.

He added that “including 30% of the earth’s surface in effectively protected areas by 2030” is particularly an important goal.

‘Size of protected area in Turkey expanding to OECD average’

Saying that as part of human health, the importance of biodiversity and sustainability of green areas should be emphasized more strongly, Kurum also provided information on related projects in Turkey.

“We are developing the active green space capacity and infrastructure of our cities with Nation’s Garden project, launched with the goal of 81 million square meters [20,015 acres] in 81 provinces in every corner of our country … We are expanding the size of our protected area from 9% to 17%, which is the OECD average.”

Turkey also plans to create 22 ecological corridors that would contribute to the lowering of negative impacts of climate change, he added.

“We are expanding the size our total natural protected area by approximately 25%, from 2 million hectares (4.94 million acres) to 2.5 million hectares (6.17 million acres),” he said, adding the country also declared 121 areas as the highest status of protected areas in last two years.

He called for paying more attention to the common welfare and health issues which are at the intersection point of human and environmental health, biodiversity, food, and water security.

* Writing by Burak Bir in Ankara.

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