Over the last two decades a new understanding of tourism has been developing in the World. This new kind of tourism, called geotourism, is the basis of understanding and recognising the globe. Geoparks are formed by the combination of visual, sometimes very valuable scientific heritage elements.
Asst. Prof. Yıldırım Güngör, a faculty member of Istanbul University Faculty of Engineering Department of Geological Engineering’s Mineralogy and Geochemistry Department, talked about the Nemrut Süphan Geopark Project, which is carried out by Istanbul University and the Governorship of Bitlis and which is a candidate to be the biggest geopark project in the world.
Stating that they started this project in 2013, Asst. Prof. Güngör explained how they carried out a 20-day preliminary research in Narman and how they revealed approximately 40 geological heritage elements in the region.
Asst. Prof. Güngör said, “The most important thing that can be done for the development of East (of Turkey) is tourism. In terms of sustainable development, factors such as nature tourism, geotourism and cultural tourism are all included in the concept of geopark. The Nemrut Süphan Geopark Project is also an important project for the development of East.”
“This is a project that makes us proud”
Emphasizing that it is something that makes Istanbul University proud to be able to initiate a project with the Governor of Bitlis in East, Asst. Prof. Güngör added, “If we mark the place with Istanbul University’s signature, it will be a source of pride for us when we remember, 15 or 20 years from now, that Istanbul University has done this.”
“The region has an incredible archaeological past”
Asst. Prof. Güngör, who stated that after starting this geopark project, he has explored various geoparks in the world to be able to improve himself in scientific sense, narrated his observations as follows, “Especially in terms of volcanic geoparks, the region, where Nemrut-Süphan Geopark stands, has a geologic heritage that is rare and has a very high aesthetic value. A geopark can include archaeological, ecological, ethnographic, historical and cultural sites of the region as well as the region’s geological features, but famous geoparks in many parts of the world do not have these features together. In Nemrut Süphan Geopark, there is incredible geopark formation, archaeological past, culture and biodiversity. We must make use of this diversity in the best possible way and take our place among the best geoparks in the world.”
“A period of 50 million years”
When examining such geo-cultural formations, they also search for the factors where the relationship between geology and human beings are in the forefront, Asst. Prof. Güngör said and continued, “By using geology we can go back hundreds of thousands of years in history. Within Nemrut Süphan Geopark, we can see a period of 50 million years. We will try to help people to look at the planet they are living in from a different perspective, by providing content that includes the cultural, geological and natural monuments inherited from the people of the past, and more importantly, how these natural monuments are formed and the information that they convey.”
“We will try to reflect the original traditions of the region”
If you add the customs of history and tradition into geology and knead it under the name of geopark and add it to the international declaration, it will be a magnificent work, Asst. Prof. Güngör said and continued, “We will try to provide the visitors with all sorts of traditions of local people living in that region. The project has an important and active role for the economic development of the region”.
“A guiding stone: Ahlat Stone (Ignimbrite)”
Asst. Prof. Güngör said, “Throughout the history of the region, where the project is located, people used ahlat stone to be a guide for them. People used to put those stones on the roads and use them as markers. Even in the villages, we can still see that they drew arrows on the stone to point the right way. We will use this tradition in the geopark; instead of using ordinary guiding signs, we will embed our signs in those guiding stones. We will carry out the organizations using 100% natural and original local ideas. We will carry something of the past to our day and try to convey it to future generations.”
Stating that they carried out training sessions so that the geological and cultural heritage in the region will be transferred to future generations, Asst. Prof. Güngör, “We gave geopark training in the region using my own scientific studies. We did three geopark trainings. We carried out these trainings in universities, high schools and primary schools and in the craters of Mount Nemrut. It was an incredibly enjoyable and interactive work”.
“We aim to be a member of UNESCO”
Referring to the UNESCO criteria that needs to be considered when these works are carried out, Asst. Prof. Güngör said that UNESCO is now paying great attention whether all the conditions are met.
Asst. Prof. Güngör said, “There are 111 geoparks registered in the UNESCO-affiliated geoparks program. This area features many of the requirements together. The issues such as the construction of the geopark museum and administrative center, the preparation of the entrance and exit points and the sightseeing trails and the projecting of necessary technical measures will be carried out at this stage with the support of the local authorities.”
“We need to preserve the values of nature”
Finally, our goal with this project is to change the way people view nature, Asst. Prof. Güngör said, and added “Nature is a part of us. We need to protect it the way it protects us. We must not destroy the values of nature and the past; we must preserve them. For this reason, protection and organization in geoparks are two very important issues.”
Story: Beste BUDAN, Caner ERDOĞAN
Translated by Eda AYDEMİR
IU Department of Press and Public Relations