Environmental issues in Turkey

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Free coal is distributed to the poor by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy.

Turkey hosts more than three thousand endemic plant species, has high diversity of other taxa, and is almost entirely covered by three of the world's thirty-five biodiversity hotspots.[1] Although some environmental pressures have been decoupled from economic growth the environment still faces many threats, such as coal and diesel fuel emitting greenhouse gases and deadly fine particulate air pollution.[2] As of 2019 there is no fine particulate limit and coal in Turkey is subsidized.


Conservation of biodiversity[edit]

The wildlife of Turkey is diverse, due to its wide variety of habitats and unique position between three continents and three seas. "Ill-considered development projects are threatening biodiversity, but a new wildlife corridor offers hope for further conservation progress."[3] Turkish montane forests face major threats to their genetic diversity associated with over-exploitation, forest fragmentation, air pollution, and global climatic change.[4]

Air pollution[edit]

Air pollution is particularly significant in urban areas;[5] the problem is especially acute in Istanbul,[6] Ankara, Erzurum, and Bursa, where the combustion of heating fuels increases particulate density in winter. Almost all the urban population is exposed to particulate matter emissions higher than the EU and World Health Organization limits.[7] Especially in Istanbul, increased car ownership causes frequent urban smog conditions.[8] "Air pollution in urban centers, often caused by transport, and the use of small-scale burning of wood or coal, is linked to a range of health problems." "PM10 levels are 36.7 micrograms per cubic meter, much higher than the OECD average of 20.9 micrograms per cubic meter, and the annual guideline limit of 20 micrograms per cubic meter set by the World Health Organization." Although there is some monitoring of air pollution compared with other European countries, many air pollution indicators are not available.[9] Regulations in Turkey do not contain any restrictions on the pollutant PM 2.5, which causes lung diseases.[10] Greenpeace Mediterranean claim that the Afşin-Elbistan coal-fired plant is the power plant with the highest health risk in Europe, followed by the Soma coal-fired power plant, also from Turkey.[11][12]

Climate change[edit]

Summer temperatures have increased and are expected to continue to increase due to climate change.[13] Coal in Turkey emits a third of the country's greenhouse gas.



Organic pollution of streams is a problem.[14] There is a potential for spills from the 5,000 oil- and gas-carrying ships that pass through the Bosporus annually.


Turkey does have sufficient water. Almost three quarters of water that is consumed is used for irrigation in agriculture.[15]

Land degradation[edit]

Land degradation is a critical agricultural problem, caused by inappropriate use of agricultural land, overgrazing, or over-fertilization,.[16] Serious soil erosion has occurred in 69% of Turkey’s land surface. A national soil information system is being developed as presently 'it is difficult to assess the levels of land degradation, desertification or soil contamination'.[17]

Green space in cities[edit]

Former military land in cities may be rezoned for housing.[18]

Laws and regulations[edit]

The first Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control permits are expected to be issued in 2024, to use best available techniques but to use the least stringent emission levels (of those specified in EU 2017-1442).[19]


Environmental issues are becoming more politically sensitive.[20] Changes in the law on environmental impact assessments are being considered which will permit mining investments without waiting for environmental impact assessments.[21] The EU has asked for "a stronger political commitment".[22] In 2019 Turkey was one of five countries which voted against the proposed UN Global Pact for the Environment.[23]


Ecotaxes on gasoline, diesel fuel and vehicles cover the social cost of carbon from the road transport sector,[24] however being nationwide they are not designed to cover the negative externality of health costs due to local air pollution in cities.


Turkey continues to provide substantial environmentally harmful subsidies, such as subsidies for poor families to use coal for heating.[25]


The OECD says the government should remove restrictions on environmental information.[26]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  • "OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Turkey 2019". OECD. February 2019.


  1. ^ Şekercioğlu, Çağan H.; Anderson, Sean; Akçay, Erol; Bilgin, Raşit; Can, Özgün Emre; Semiz, Gürkan; Tavşanoğlu, Çağatay; Yokeş, Mehmet Baki; Soyumert, Anıl; İpekdal, Kahraman; Sağlam, İsmail K.; Yücel, Mustafa; Dalfes, H. Nüzhet (27 June 2011). "Turkey's globally important biodiversity in crisis". Biological Conservation (published December 2011). 144 (12): 2752–2769. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2011.06.025. ISSN 0006-3207. OCLC 5899894758. Retrieved 28 August 2014 – via ResearchGate.
  2. ^ OECD (2019), page 3
  3. ^ Gross, Michael (10 July 2012). "Turkey's biodiversity at the crossroads". Current Biology. 22 (13): R503–R505. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2012.06.051. PMID 22970449.
  4. ^ Çolak, Alpher H.; Rotherham, Ian D. (November 2006). "A Review of the Forest Vegetation of Turkey: its Status Past and Present and its Future Conservation" (PDF). Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. 106B (3): 343–354. doi:10.3318/bioe.2006.106.3.343. JSTOR 20728606. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 25 December 2015 – via UKEconet.
  5. ^ "Air pollution 'gravest environmental issue'". Hürriyet Daily News. Istanbul: Doğan Media Group. 1 January 2013. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  6. ^ Onat, Burcu; Sahin, Ulku Alver; Akyuz, Tanil (12 November 2012). "Elemental characterization of PM2.5 and PM1 in dense traffic area in Istanbul, Turkey". Atmospheric Pollution Research (published January 2013). 4 (1): 101–105. doi:10.5094/apr.2013.010. ISSN 1309-1042. OCLC 857474567.
  7. ^ "How Turkey Can Ensure a Successful Energy Transition". Center for American Progress. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  8. ^ "Fed up with Istanbul traffic". Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  9. ^ European Environment Agency (2013). Air pollution fact sheet 2013 - Turkey (Report). Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  10. ^ "AIR POLLUTION AND ISTANBUL; Alarm bells". Heinrich Böll Stiftung.
  11. ^ Üzüm, İpek (28 May 2014). "Greenpeace warns about threat of Turkey's coal-fired power plants". Today's Zaman. Istanbul: Feza Publications. Archived from the original on 26 December 2015. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  12. ^ Tuna, Banu (11 September 2014). "Greenpeace activists detained in Turkey for protesting thermal power plant". Hürriyet Daily News. Doğan Media Group. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  13. ^ Lelieveld, J.; Hadjinicolaou, P.; Kostopoulou, E.; Giannakopoulos, C.; Pozzer, A.; Tanarhte, M.; Tyrlis, E. (11 March 2013). "Model projected heat extremes and air pollution in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East in the twenty-first century" (PDF). Regional Environmental Change (published 24 March 2013). 14 (5): 1937–1949. doi:10.1007/s10113-013-0444-4. ISSN 1436-3798. OCLC 5690407361. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  14. ^ Varol, Memet. "Assessment of Water Pollution in the Tigris River in Diyarbakır, Turkey". Water Practice and Technology. 5: 1–13.
  15. ^ Alphan, Melis (23 August 2014). "How can we fight against droughts?". Hürriyet Daily News. Doğan Media Group. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  16. ^ Savci, Serpil; Borkmaz, Bellitürk. "Assesment of Irrigation Water Quality of Some Provinces of Turkey" (PDF). International Journal of Modern Engineering Research. 3 (1): 19–22. ISSN 2249-6645. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  17. ^ "Turkey's first online soil information system to be accessible to farmers and policymakers". FAO.
  18. ^ "Turkish army's green areas may face risk of settlement". Hürriyet Daily News. Istanbul: Doğan Media Group. 13 August 2013. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  19. ^ OECD (2019), page 94
  20. ^ "Riot police break up ODTÜ protest in Ankara, 24 students forming human chain detained". Hürriyet Daily News. Ankara: Doğan Media Group. Doğan News Agency. 26 October 2013. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  21. ^ "Environment approval process 'not to delay big projects,' economy minister says". Hürriyet Daily News. Ankara: Doğan Media Group. Anadolu Agency. 28 September 2013. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  22. ^ European Commission (16 October 2013). Turkey 2013 Progress Report (PDF) (Report). p. 71. SWD(2013) 417 final. Retrieved 25 December 2015. A stronger political commitment would help to accelerate the alignment with and implementation of the acquis, as well as coordination and cooperation between relevant authorities at all levels.
  23. ^ "U.S. One of Five Countries to Oppose UN Environment Pact". EcoWatch. 2018-05-11. Retrieved 2019-06-17.
  24. ^ "Effective Carbon Rates 2018". OECD. 18 September 2018.
  25. ^ OECD (2019), executive summary
  26. ^ OECD (2019), executive summary

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/.