The International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) welcomes rescheduling the opening for Expo Kahramanmaraş 2023 to Saturday, August 12, considering the immense effects of the 7.8 and 7.7 earthquakes that devastated the lives of millions.
‘Nature-Friendly City and Sensitivity’ is the International Horticultural Expo’s theme, which gained a more profound relevance for the people of Kahramanmaraş after surviving the earthquake’s aftershocks. Mr. Hanefi Mahçiçek, President of Expo 2023 Kahramanmaras and Mayor of Onikisubat Municipality spoke about how the Expo’s site quickly became a makeshift sanctuary for the survivors.
The mayor described the turbulent situation at the recent AIPH Expo Conference as part of the Spring Meeting hosted in Lisbon, Portugal. Mr. Mahçiçek recounted how the Exhibition buildings on the 79-hectare Expo site were unaffected by the earthquake – “not a scratch.” But in this province, where 1,171,298 citizens live, the Turkish Government confirms that 10,800 buildings were razed, more than 100,000 people were injured, and the death toll reached 12,000 in just the city of Kahramanmaraş alone.
From February 6, Mayor Mahçiçek said the Expo took on a new purpose for the people of Kahramanmaraş. The Expo’s Hobby Houses and 3,000-spaced car parking area swiftly became host to the displaced people offering them a tent and container camp to protect them from the freezing temperatures plummeting many degrees below zero.
Representing the Expo, Mr. Harun Güzel added to the Expo 2023 Kahramanmaraş presentation at AIPH’s Spring Meeting Expo Conference, where he described the aftermath. He said there is nowhere in the city center for people to socialize and return to normal. People are still afraid. The Expo site is the only open, green space where people feel safe with their families and, through the power of nature, these spaces can heal.
Expo 2023 Kahramanmaraş was approved in 2018 at the AIPH Congress in Padova, Italy. It was Mayor Mahçiçek’s vision to raise the city’s profile on a global stage. The Expo’s prescient sub-themes will explore nature-based education for children; biophilic urban renewal design; urban horticulture and local food; greener, healthier, and happier, and the wisdom of simplicity. The mayor had planned the Expo’s opening date to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic on Sunday, April 23.
Logistically, with all these challenges, this is now not possible, and at the Spring Meeting, AIPH agreed to reschedule Expo 2023 Kahramanmaraş, which will now take place from August 12 to November 30. AIPH Secretary General Tim Briercliffe commented on the change, “We have been humbled by the resilience and determination of Mayor Mahçiçek and the citizens of Kahramanmaraş. He believes this Expo can play an important role in re-energizing and rehabilitating the region, and he has our full support.”
International Horticultural Expos foster cooperation and knowledge sharing between countries addressing crucial issues related to healthy lifestyles, green economies, sustainable living, education, and innovation. This Expo can boast 30 International and 30 National participants in this spirit, all pulling together and on-site right now, ready to make Expo 2023 Kahramanmaraş a success.
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