Drying out of Burdur Lake, Turkey


The Burdur Lake basin in Turkeys Mediterranean region has been facing severe environmental damage in the form of increased pollution and a decrease in water volume, despite its Ramsar status as a major wintering site for the endangered white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala).

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Basic Data
NameDrying out of Burdur Lake, Turkey
ProvinceGreater part of the lake is situated in Burdur province while the rest is in Isparta province.
SiteBurdur Lake Basin
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThere are 14 dams and dam lakes on Bozcay, the biggest river feeding Burdur Lake. With the completion of Karacal Dams construction and consequent water retention a few years ago, there is no more water reaching Burdur Lake from Bozcay.

A great number of wells drilled around the lake also cause the depletion of groundwater feeding it. It is estimated that 42 hm3 water is being extracted only from licensed wells of the basin. The magnitude of the water extraction from wells can be understood considering in addition the illegal groundwater wells.

In Burdur Lake Basin, 126hm3 water is being held in dams and dam lakes constructed over watercourses feeding the lake and 72,4 hm3 of this is being channeled to agricultural fields. With the start of Karacal Dams retention over Bozcay, the total held water amount has increased to 202 hm3.

Works have been initiated for the construction of 11 new artificial lakes in Burdur Lake Basin.

Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected PopulationThe population of Isparta, equal to 411,215.
Start Date1975
Relevant government actorsBurdur Governorship, Burdur Municipality, Burdur Provincial Forestry and Water Affairs Directorate, Burdur General Directorate of Food, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, Ministry of Forestry and Water Works: related with the construction of dams and dam lakes
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersFor the protection of Burdur Lake, the Nature Association (Doga Dernegi) cooperated with many other groups. In fact, together with some professional/trade associations in Burdur, NGOs working in different fields such as environment, womens issues, sports etc. act together to save the lake under the so called Rescue Crew for Burdur Lake in accordance with Nature Associations Saving Burdur Lake Project objectives and activities.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Recreational users
Apart from 26 NGOs, some professional/trade associations in Burdur province; Birdwatchers
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
OtherIn the dried-out part of the lake, the dust raised due to wind erosion potentially increases the risk of respiratory illnesses.
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood
OtherLoss of income, difficulties in accessing water, and migration from rural to urban areas and from Burdur to different cities, which can be voluntary or enforced.
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseMigration/displacement
Postponement of decision-making by the government (Postponing the Local Wetland Commission meeting which was essential for the revision of Burdur Lake Management Plan)
Development of AlternativesIn collaboration with the relevant public institutions and NGOs, Nature Association conducts Saving Burdur Lake Project in order to prevent the lakes drying out since 2007. Main activities include:

-Broadening the scope of the Burdur Lake Management Plan in such a way that more water from the basin enters the lake and that it covers all activities influencing the lake; and ensuring its implementation.

-Ensuring that watercourses feeding the lake actually reach the lake and reducing the negative impacts of wells.

-Spreading the use of less water intensive plants and irrigation methods in the basin.

-Reviving the lake culture around Burdur Lake.

In the past years, as part of Saving Burdur Lake Project, 3 pilot drip irrigation zones have been set up in two villages and a neighbourhood of the city center. In conjuction with the Provincial Directorate of Food, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, drip irrigation trainings have been given to 1524 farmers in 41 villages. In 2012, it is targeted to set up 2 new pilot zones for growing water efficient agricultural plants.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.Public awareness was raised about the problems related to the drying of the lake in terms of Burdur community, culture and biodiversity at public at large. In this sense, there is perhaps a partial success from an environmental justice perspective. However, drainage/drying of the lake has not yet been stopped.
Sources and Materials

General public policy regarding wetlands: With the idea of not letting water flow to waste, the general political approach, especially of the General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works (DSI in Turkish acronym), is to maximize the utility of each wetland by building the highest possible numbers of dams and artificial lakes on them for irrigation or power generation instead of evaluating wetlands in and of themselves for their place in the natural cycle and their services. Risks such as the extinction of species using the wetland habitats, decrease in revenues from agriculture and animal husbandry in the region due to changes in the microclimate, potential wind erosion in the drained zones are being ruled out as a result of the wetlands drying out from this short-term policy.

By-law on Conservation of Wetlands (2005). In 2010, some clauses of this by-law have been revised in the framework of the below explained policy. Nature Association has filed a case for the cancellation of the revision due to its contradiction with Ramsar Convention.


Report prepared in the framework of Saving Burdur Lake Project

If there is no lake, there is no Burdur

(in Turkish):
[click to view]

(in English):
[click to view]

Burdur Lake Management Plan prepared and implemented by Burdur Local Wetlands Commission:
[click to view]

Ataol, Murat article (from Doctorate thesis):
[click to view]

Ataol, Murat. Proposal for a New Water Management Model for Burdur Lake Basin. Doctorate thesis, Ankara University, 2010.

Adaman, F., Hakyemez, S. and Ozkaynak, B. The Political Ecology of a Ramsar Conservation Failure: The Case of Burdur Lake, Turkey, Environment and Planning B, 27 (5), 783 800. 2009.

Pilot Agricultural Applications Report. Towards Wise Use of Water Resources in Turkey Burdur Closed Basin Application Project, Ankara: Nature Society, 2010


Nature Association website for information on Saving Burdur Lake Project:
[click to view]

Shrinking of Burdur Lake in Turkey threatens globally endangered White-headed Ducks
[click to view]

Media Links

If there is no lake, there is no Burdur, prepared in the framework of Saving Burdur Lake Project:
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorAyse Sargin
Last update08/04/2014