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Country profile (Turkey)

What distinguishes the country?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Geographic and Climate Profile

Turkey covering approximately 780,000 square kilometres and with an 8,000 kilometer coastline extending along the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara, the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, has a unique position connecting Europe and Asia, geographically as well as ecologically. Turkey is the thirty-fourth largest country in the world with an area of 783,562 km2; it’s situated at the meeting point of the three continents of the old world and stands as a crossroad between Asia and Europe which brings a unique pattern with rich biodiversity and large number of endemic species. The total land of the country is classified as below table.


Map 1. Turkey physical map

Map 1 Turkey physical map



Table 1. Land use


Pastures and Meadows








Turkey is located in the Mediterranean macroclimatic zone allowing the country to have widely diverse regional and/or seasonal variations ranging from extremely harsh winter conditions to very hot, dry summers.



Recent statistics define that population of Turkey was 71.5 million end of 2008. Annual population growth rate is estimated as 13.1 ‰ and population density is 93 inhabitants per km2 by the end of 2008 as shown on below.


Map 2. Population density on Turkey

Map 2 Population density in Turkey

Turkey has experienced rapid rural to urban migration since 1960s where the percent of rural to urban population is reversed in the last 50 years. The urban population is projected to increase to 71,9 % in 2015 (UNDP Human Development Report, 2007/2008).


Table 2. Total Population and Change in % of Rural –Urban 


Census Year

Total Population

Urban (%)

Rural (%)


13 648 270




16 158 018




17 820 950




18 790 174




20 947 188




24 064 763




27 754 820




31 391 421




35 605 176




40 347 719




44 736 957




50 664 458




56 473 035




67 803 927




70 586 256




Economic Structure

When the sectoral structure of growth is examined, it is observed that the greatest contribution came from industry. While the annual average growth rate of the agricultural sector was 1.1 per cent during 2001-2005, industry and services sectors grew by 5.1 per cent and 4.3 per cent, respectively. As a result of these developments, the share of the agricultural sector in the total value-added continued to decrease and it fell from 14.1 per cent in 2000 to 10.3 per cent in 2005. On the other hand, the share of the services sector increased from 62.6 per cent to 64.4 per cent and the share of the industry sector rose from 23.3 per cent to 25.4 per cent.


Table 3. Employment rates











Employment rate  (%)







Unemployment rate  (%)







During the planning period for 2000-2005 the share of agriculture sector within employment figures has decreased from 36% to 29,5 while industry and service sectors were increasing from 17,7% to 19,4 and from 46,3% to 51,1% respectively.


Table 4. Per Capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

(At Current Prices, in US Dollar)

























Govermental  Structure

The political system in Turkey is a parliamentary democracy. The Turkish Constitution structures the Republic of Turkey as a democratic, secular and social state in which the executive, legislative and judicial powers are separated.

The 1982 Constitution provides a number of articles that underline the environmental duties and obligations of the citizens and the state. In the most prominent Article 56, environmental rights are not only defined as part of the state’s purview, but also as a duty for every citizen.

The general administration is divided into two jurisdictions as the central government and local governments. The central government is fragmented into provinces, districts and other sections. The centralized administrative bodies functioning under a hierarchical structure of the Ministry, are in charge of fulfilling public services on a national scale, and linked with associated ministries. In this respect, the local governments are the bodies to provide the services for citizens in provinces, municipalities and villages. The two separate Ministries of Environment and Forestry were merged in 2003. The result of this merger has bolstered the administrative capacity of the state’s environment and forestry related activities

It is observed that there prevail economic and political conditions more favourable for the decentralization and delegation of powers from the central government down to the local governments in Turkey. The levels of political participation achieved under the “Local Agenda 21 Program” and the efforts to develop a style of government more responsive to the citizenry and citizen demands could make a positive impact on local governments

Agenda 21 adopted at the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, states among its objectives: “By 1996, most local authorities in each country should have undertaken a consultative process with their populations and achieved a consensus on ‘a Local Agenda 21’ for the community.” Local Agenda 21 implementations in Turkey commenced at the end of 1997, under the title “Promotion and Development of Local Agenda 21”. The project is coordinated by the International Union of Local Authorities, Section for the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East (IULA-EMME) and financed by the UNDP. At its inception, it included nine cities selected to account for a balanced representation from different geographic regions of Turkey. At the end of the first year, the Project was revised by the UNDP and the number of cities was increased to 23 and then to 48. The UNDP has selected the “Local Agenda 21 Program” of Turkey as a world-wide “best practice” in 2001, and decided to present this Program as “best practice” to the world leaders and governments in the UN “Rio+10” Summit in Johannesburg


b) What have been the major societal developments since 1980 compared with the period 1950-1980?

Prior to 1980, Turkey followed an economic policy based on the import substitution. Instead of importing, Turkey’s goal was to manufacture products in the country which would meet the domestic demand.

A Comprehensive Stability Program with the objective of introducing substantial economic reforms was prepared and applied on January 24, 1980. Thus, Turkey abandoned the industrialization model based on substitution of imports and adopted another model concentrating on and giving priority to exports. The reform policies implemented also adopted a change in the economy by gradually concentrating more on the market mechanisms instead of central administration. Export-led growth policies in Turkey have yielded a significant transformation in industrial relations and production since the 1980s.

Tourism has been one of the fastest growing industries in Turkey in the last twenty five years. Tourist arrivals increased from 1.1 million in 1980 to 26.3 million in 2008, while receipts increased from 326 million US dollars to 21.9 billion US dollars during the same period.


Table 5. Incoming Foreign Tourists and Tourism Revenues (million people and billions of Euro)




























With the decisively pursued structural reforms since year 2000, significant progress has been achieved about establishing macroeconomic stability, high growth, improving productivity and also in economic, social and legal convergence towards EU.


            Turkey-EU Relations

On 14 April 1987, Turkey applied for membership of the European Communities. In the Opinion of the European Commission which was issued in 1989, it was concluded that Turkey was eligible for membership but it would be appropriate for the time being to postpone the decision to be made on Turkey’s membership.

The relations were revitalised in the early 1990s, the stage was reached of fully establishing a customs union between Turkey and the EC in the area of industrial products under Decision No. 1/95 of EC-Turkey Association Council of 6 March 1995. In accordance with the Decision, the customs union between Turkey and the EC began to operate on 1 January 1996.

Following Turkey’s communication declaring the wish to take part in the new enlargement process launched in 1996. Turkey was admitted as a candidate for the EU membership on an equal basis with the other candidate countries at the European Council held in Helsinki on 10-11 December 1999.

In the context of the decision made at the Copenhagen Council held on 12-13 December 2002, on fulfilment of the Copenhagen political criteria in December 2004, the European Council stated that “Turkey sufficiently fulfils the Copenhagen criteria to open accession negotiations”. Based on this decision EU-Turkey accession negotiations were opened on 3 October 2005 with the analytical examination of the EU legislation (screening process) which was finalised on 13 October 2006. Since then the negotiations were opened in nine chapters.

The European Union has gradually emerged as a key actor in environment, both providing a generally positive example and forcing, through formal as well as informal channels, the development of environmental protection in Turkey.


c) What are the main drivers of environmental pressures and how do these contribute to multiple impacts on people and natural environment

Especially since the 1980s, environmental degradation caused both by the overuse of natural resources and the disposal of waste beyond the assimilative capacity of the ecosystem has been rapidly deteriorating. A combination of unregulated industrialization, unplanned urbanization, heavy use of chemicals and pesticides in the agricultural sector, ill-managed tourism activities, energy and mega-irrigation projects without any regard for environmental dynamics, as well as high population growth, uneven development and income distribution, and persistent poverty have been putting enormous pressure over the ecological system of Turkey. Air pollution in cities and industry sites, ground and underground water pollution, soil pollution, erosion, salinization, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, visual and noise pollution, especially in coastal zones, all contribute to increasing degradation –some of which manifest themselves in immediate costs- (especially with health-related ones), others becoming evident over time .

Economic growth, rapid growth of population, rapid urbanization, consumption patterns and technological development put a growing pressure on the environment and natural resources.

In order to mitigate these problems, several measures have been implemented in recent years. In the context of EU environmental approximation process, significant progress has been made, especially in urban wastewater management, waste management, air quality, nature protection, noise and environmental impact assessment.


            Water and wastewater

Turkey is classified as a country which will become a water-stressed country. More than 98 percent of the total population have drinking and potable water network and considering the total number of the municipalities’ sewerage network existence is approximately covering 90 percent.

Graph 1. Annual water budget in Turkey

Graph 1. Annual water budget in Turkey


In general, 83% of the population (urban 94%, rural 62%) of Turkey has access to improved sanitation, including the households at least having connection to public sewer, septic system or simple pit latrine. 40,2% of total population is served by wastewater treatment plants. 78,4% of total municipal population is connected to a sewer system. The other municipalities lack a treatment system or have only primary (physical) treatment, or they lack the capacity to operate the established sewage treatment plants.


            Solid waste

The solid waste generation per capita are determined for the year 2006 and these determined numbers are compiled to 2008 according to the population data of each province in Turkey. According to that, the total amount of municipal waste collected in Turkey is 24.4 million tons per year in 2008, 12.7 million tons of waste was directly disposed of in landfills and 0.3 million tons were treated in composting facilities.


Table 6. Municipal Waste Disposal Route (2008)

Disposal Method

Quantity ( ton/year)

Controlled landfill

10 947 437


12 677 142

Waste sent to composting plants

275 737


460 547

Total collected waste

24 360 863

In the existing situation, as of 2008, there are a total number of 38 landfills for municipal waste in Turkey.

Although municipalities mostly comply with duty solid waste management in collecting and transporting phases, there is still a need for further improvement of the municipality facilities and public awareness about minimization of solid waste and separation at the source.


            Industry and energy

Relative magnitudes of environmental pressures generated by the manufacturing industry on air quality, water and soil differ substantially across sectors but major drivers of these pressures can be cited as unsustainable production and consumption patterns that arose from Turkey’s efforts to achieve income convergence with developed economies and to meet the increasing demand resulting from high population and GDP growth rates.


Table 7. Energy Consumption by Sectors  ( 1000 TOE)

Table 7. Energy consumption by sectors


Turkey has become a major energy corridor of its region in the recent years with the construction oil pipelines from Russia to Europe. e.g. Baku- Tiflis- Ceyhan oil pipeline.


Map 3. Natural gas and Oil Pipeline Map

Map 3. Natural gas and Oil Pipeline Map



Turkey has a rapid growth rate in both tourist arrivals and revenues and ranked 9th, among the World’s top 20 tourism destinations, in terms of tourist arrivals and 8th in terms of tourism receipts.

Tourism in Turkey is focused largely on a variety of archaeological and historical sites, and on seaside resorts along its Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. In the recent years, Turkey has also becoming a popular destination for culture, spa, and health care tourism.

The Blue Flag works towards sustainable development at beaches/marinas through strict criteria dealing with water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management, and safety and other services. In Turkey, the beaches number are increased last ten years.

  Graph 2. Number of Blue flag in Turkey

Graph 2. Number of Blue flag in Turkey


Rapid and unplanned urbanization, high population growth in big cities and increase in the ownership of motor vehicles aggravate the problems experienced in urban transportation such as excessive fuel consumption, environmental pollution, accidents and traffic congestion. In highly populated metropolitan areas, necessary investments cannot be made at the required level and public transportation services cannot be improved due to high infrastructure costs and insufficient financial resources (9th Development Plan, 2007-2013).

There are serious investments made to the railway transportation during the last years. The aim is to build 4000 km long railway for high speed train till 2023.

The number of passengers transported by maritime has increased by 52 % in 2008 compared to 2003. Parallel to this, there is 43 % increase in vehicle transportation.

Air transportation also shows a considerable development during the period 2003-2008. The number of passengers travelling within domestic lines reached to 35 million, where this number goes to 75 million in international lines by the end of 2008.

A significant campaign was initiated for highways and the length of the highways almost tripled in the last years as a result of this campaign.

In the below given figure CO2 Emissions from road transport is given by cities, 6 great cities of Turkey comprises half of the emissions caused by road transport in 2006. 


Graph 3.  CO2 Emission Resulted From Road Transport in 2006


During the period 2003-2004, the precautions including tax amnesty and penalties for decreasing CO2  emissions has brought a 4.9 % reduction by withdrawal of 320 000 vehicles older than 16 years.


During the period of 1983-2007, approximately 5.5 million housing units have been permitted for occupancy. For the period of 2007-2013, it has been estimated that approximately 3.500.000 housing units have been required. It could be said that the difference between the permitted housing production and the housing need will be supplied by unregistered housing production. This would cause an important pressure on land resources, and also consequent problems in supply of environmental infrastructure services to these new residents could threat environment and health.



Inadequate applications and sometimes excess use of agricultural inputs, especially irrigation water, fertilizers or pesticides is the main driver of environmental pressure in agriculture sector.

During 1990-2006 the population of Turkey has increased by approximately 17 million people, that is 30%. At the same time, parallel with the economic development, industry, urbanization and misguided land use, the agricultural per capita land has decreased approximately 1,5 million ha. While a decreasing trend in population growth was observed towards the end of this same period, the growing population and losses in arable land decreased the arable land from 0,75 per capita/ha in 1990 to 0,55 per capita/ha in 2006.

 Table 8. Agricultural Area

Table 8. Agricultural Area


Erosion due to wrong tillage applications or over irrigation, decrease in groundwater levels or salinization of soil and water resources due to over use of irrigation water can be observed in some parts of the country.


What are the foreseen main developments in coming decades that could be expected to contribute most to future environmental pressures?

In the 9th Development Plan of Turkey the potential growth rate of Turkish economy is estimated around 5.1 percent in the medium term and the long term. In this perspective, the share of industry and services sectors in the GDP is expected to increase, which, in turn, may exert additional pressure on the environment and natural resources. In addition to economic growth, rapid population growth, urbanization and industrialization continue to be important factors threatening sustainable use of natural resources. Global problems such as climate change, loss of biodiversity and desertification are significant threats on the environment and human well being.

According to population projections by TURKSTAT, the population of the country would reach 76.6 million and an annual growth rate of 9.9 ‰ in 2015. Urbanization ratio has reached to 62.7% in year 2006 from the level of 52.9% in 1990. In fact the urbanization pace retains the same level, the urban population ratio of Turkey is predicted to close up to the rate of EU countries by the year of 2015.



  • 9th Development Plan (2007-2013), Undersecretariat of State Planning Organization.
  • 2009 Annual Programme, Undersecretariat of State Planning Organization.
  • Adaman, Fikret, Arsel, Murat, (2005), ‘Introduction’, in Environmentalism in Turkey Between Democracy and Development (ed by.) Fikret Adaman, Murat Arsel, Aldershot:Ashgate, pp. 1-11.
  • EU Integrated Environmental Approximation Strategy (UÇES), 2007-2023, Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
  • First National Communication on Climate Change of Turkey-2007, Undersecretariat of State Planning Organization.Ministry of Environment, UNDP, (2002), National Report on Sustainable Development, Ankara: Mas A.S., 2nd Edition.
  • Strategic Coherence Framework (SCF), 2007-2013, Undersecretariat of State Planning Organization.
  •   Turkish Statistical Institute, TURKSTAT.
  • World Tourism Organization, (2007), Yearbook of Tourism Statistics
  • Türkiye Çevre Durum Raporu, 2007, Çevre ve Orman Bakanlığı, Ankara
  • Ministry of Transport, Planning Organization,



The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

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