Huge Sinkholes Are Swallowing Up Turkey’s Farmland

Hundreds of new sinkholes have been reported in Turkey’s agriculturally-focused Konya Province since the start of the year, almost double the number registered last year, and apparently it’s yet another man-made problem.

Konya Provine, located in the eponymous Konya Plain, has always been known as Turkey’s breadbasket or green silo, because of the vast sea of wheat spanning every which way, as far as the eye can see. But while Konya remains the country’s main agricultural center, the persistent drought plaguing farmers in this area has caused an unforeseen problem that has only been getting worse in recent years – sinkholes. As cultivators increasingly turn to groundwater to keep their crops alive, the giant caverns drained of water eventually collapse under the weight of the soil above, creating holes tens of meters across and up to 150-meters-deep.

Professor Fetullah Arik, who heads the Sinkhole Research Centre at the Konya Technical University, says that sinkholes are a fairly recent phenomenon observed over the past 10 to 15 years, but that the cause of the problem can be traced back to the 1970s. That’s when uncontrolled groundwater irrigation began in the area, a practice that sadly continues to this day. Droughts are getting worse every year, and getting water by other means is expensive, so farmers still turn to groundwater, thus making the problem worse.


According to Daily Sabbah, sinkholes are almost exclusive to the Konya Plain, because of the characteristics of the land, streaming direction of water, combined with the recline of underground waters. Some are shallow, while some are much deeper than the eye can see, and despite farmers efforts to fill them up when the appear, that is apparently never a good idea.

“Farmers try to come up with solutions too, in filling the sinkholes but in the end, they cannot be filled properly as the void beneath the land is wider than the one visible to the eye. It is better to mark the area with sinkholes to prevent accidents,” Fetullah Arik said.

There are currently 660 documented sinkholes in Konya Province, nearly double the 350 counted last year, and even though they have yet to cause any human casualties, they are creeping closer to human settlements, and the fact that scientists can’t predict where or when they will occur means that loss of life is entirely possible.

In 2018, more than 20 sinkholes were registered in Konya Province, but the rate at which they have appeared in the last couple of years has a lot of people worried. Unfortunately, until the problem of groundwater irrigation is resolved, sinkholes are expected to continue popping up.

A similar sinkhole problem was reported earlier this year in Croatia, only there the cause was a strong earthquake that hit the European country in December of 2020.