Kahramanmaraş, the epicentre of the Türkiye-Syria earthquake in February, is now hosting EXPO 2023 with the theme of “Nature-Friendly City and Sensitivity”. The International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) was present at the opening for Expo Kahramanmaraş 2023 on Saturday, 14 October.
The 7.8 and 7.7 earthquakes that hit Türkiye on 6 February devastated millions. In Kahramanmaraş, where 1,171,298 citizens live, 10,800 buildings were razed, more than 100,000 people were injured, and the death toll reached 12,000.
The land of the 74-hectare Expo’s site was unaffected, and it quickly became a makeshift sanctuary for the survivors as a green space where people felt safe with their families.
During the Opening Ceremony of EXPO 2023, the President of AIPH, Leonardo Capitanio, recognised the crucial role of the Expo site in these challenging times. He emphasised the therapeutic effects of nature and its ability to heal. Green spaces are essential during difficult times, providing visual pleasure and representing hope and renewal. They are a peaceful oasis, offering a place for self-reflection and physical and mental healing. They provide a quiet retreat, a place for introspection and a chance for physical and mental healing. The transformative power of green infrastructure is enormous and serves as a potent tool for urban resilience and recovery. The President expressed his sincere hope that all visitors to this Expo would appreciate the power of plants and that this experience would positively impact their lives and the city.
Mr Capitanio acknowledged the difficulties of hosting this Expo: “When we approved this Expo back in 2018, no one could have known the immense challenges you would have faced. From battling through COVID and a difficult economy, you then had the greatest challenge of all when the earthquake hit this year, bringing unimaginable destruction and sorrow. This is what makes Expo 2023 Kahramanmaraş so special.”
He continued: “Your determination to complete this Expo proves the resilience of the people of this region. I feel very humble in your presence today.”
In his video message at the opening ceremony, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, “EXPO 2023, organised with the main theme of Nature-Friendly City and Sensitivity, will have the opportunity to host thousands of local and international guests in Kahramanmaraş from now until 14 January 2024. I believe that EXPO 2023 will make serious contributions to the city’s economic, cultural, commercial, and social life. I congratulate all our institutions and municipalities that contributed and supported the execution of this important organisation.”
International Horticultural Expos foster cooperation and knowledge sharing between countries, addressing crucial issues related to healthy lifestyles, green economies, sustainable living, education, and innovation. On the Expo site, a ‘Mother Earth’ kinetic statue dominates the landscape, along with the Crystal Lagoon Pool, a Butterfly and Ladybug Garden, and other facilities. The Expo’s themes will explore nature-based education for children, biophilic urban renewal design, urban horticulture, local food, greener, healthier, and happier, and the wisdom of simplicity.
Featuring 22 national and international country gardens, including participation from the USA, the Netherlands, Spain, Mexico, Germany, and Zimbabwe, will showcase their ornamental horticulture and cultures.
Mr Hanefi Mahçiçek, President of EXPO 2023 Kahramanmaraş organising committee and Mayor of Onikisubat Municipality, expressed that they had achieved a miracle despite the negativities. He spoke about his vision to raise the city’s profile globally, that EXPO 2023 will contribute to the city and the country’s economy, and that the Expo site will remain its legacy.
Acknowledging his determination, Mr Capitanio said: “I want to express my gratitude to the mayor, his team, and the people of Kahramanmaraş for their unwavering strength and resilience. I want to thank all the international participants for their tireless efforts in supporting this city’s journey to recovery and transformation, and I want to thank our member in Türkiye, the Ornamental Plants and Products Exporters Association, represented by Mr Ìsmail Yilmaz.”
He ended with these sentiments: “As we explore Expo 2023 Kahramanmaraş, let us remember that a city’s vitality is intrinsically linked to its green spaces. We should never underestimate the power of nature to heal, rejuvenate, and unite us.
“Thank you, and let us continue to plant the seeds of hope and renewal, not just in Kahramanmaraş but in every corner of the world.”