Aquaduct in Istanbul
Aquaduct in Istanbul

Mariëtte Verhoeven receives Embassy Science Fellowship for research on water heritage in Istanbul

Dr Mariëtte Verhoeven receives an Embassy Science Fellowship from NWO - in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. With the grant Verhoeven will work at the Dutch Consulate General in Istanbul for three months to develop an integrated model for increasing public awareness and preserving Istanbul's water heritage.

The Embassy Science Fellowship of NWO and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is intended to offer researchers the opportunity to spend one to three months somewhere in the world contributing to a scientific and/or social issue at a Dutch embassy or consulate. Dr Mariëtte Verhoeven will focus for three months on the water heritage of the Turkish city of Istanbul and raising awareness of this among the general public.

Water heritage is an aspect of cultural heritage that can act as a driver for sustainable development. Throughout history, the supply of fresh water has been an issue of political, social, economic and cultural importance to cities. With urban growth, increasing water demand and climate change, solving today's water problems is crucial to developing sustainable forms of urban life for the future. Public awareness is an important factor in this process.

Rich water heritage

Istanbul and its hinterland have a very rich water heritage, dating back over 1500 years. This includes dams, tunnels, aqueducts, distribution stations, water towers, reservoirs, fountains and baths, as well as the social and cultural traditions that go with them. Many of these remains are protected by cultural heritage regulations, but also suffer from neglect, uncontrolled urban development and deliberate destruction. Water heritage should be approached as a complex network of tangible and intangible remains - not as isolated historical relics - in a modern urban setting. Network approaches have been developed mainly for waterfront cities, such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam, but less so for cities where there are remains of historic water supply systems.

Sustainable development

At present, planners, policy-makers and the public are insufficiently aware of the value and potential of Istanbul's heritage. Although the municipality of Istanbul, NGOs and research institutes increasingly recognise the importance of this public awareness, the lack of an integrated vision and approach is currently preventing Istanbul's water heritage from becoming a driver for sustainable development.

Verhoeven's research will focus (in collaboration with research institutes, including the Netherlands Institute in Turkey and Istanbul Technical University) on an inventory of the historical remains and on contemporary threats posed by, among others, urban development and climate change. Verhoeven will also take stock of local and international initiatives for preservation and public engagement and - in cooperation with the staff of the Consulate General - will establish connections with the relevant scientists, organisations and municipal authorities. For the research, Verhoeven will make use of digital techniques. She also wants to increase public awareness, for example by developing a walking app.

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