Drying up of Tuz Lake Closed Water Basin, Turkey


Once being the biggest salt lake of Europe and second biggest lake of Turkey and despite gaining official protection status of Special Environmental Protection Area since 2000, Tuz Lake and its satellite wetlands (Kulu, Terkesan and Bolluk Lakes, Esmekaya Marshes) face the threat of drying up because of the dominant water polices. Irrigated agriculture carried out intensively in Tuz Lake closed basin is based on illegal groundwater wells. Each year well drillings go deeper and cause the reduction of underground water which naturally feeds the basin, uncontrollable desertification and salinisation. Biological features of the protected area (such as semi-wet habitats) high in endemism are changing and the soil in the region becomes arid and salinised.

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Basic Data
NameDrying up of Tuz Lake Closed Water Basin, Turkey
ProvinceAksaray, Konya, Ankara
SiteKulu, ereflikohisar, Cihanbeyli, Aksaray
Accuracy of LocationLOW country/state level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific CommoditiesIndustrial waste
Domestic municipal waste
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIn addition to the impacts of climate change, illegal well drillings for irrigated agriculture activities (especially sugar beet farming) reduced the surface area of Salt Lake around 60% between 1987-2005. Currently the lake is reduced to 130,000 ha. Annually, 6000 m3 water is used on average per hectare of irrigated agricultural land. At the beginning of 2000s the amount of underground water that feeds Tuz Lake was 740 hm3 but it is substantially reduced ever since. Along with the drying up of the lake, semi-wet habitats which host highly endemic halophilous plants are also affected. Esmekaya Marshes used to be an 11,250 ha Important Bird Area until 1997. After the construction of Esmekaya Dam with an irrigation capacity of 6,700 ha, the marshes have dried up and ornithological diversity is destroyed.

Furthermore, taking into account Turkeys gas supply security and the lakes natural structure which is quite suitable for gas storage, it is planned to construct a gas storage plant consisting of twelve units (the capacity of 630,000 m3 each). The storage plant is estimated to provide 40 million m3 gas/day to Turkish natural gas network. The tender process of the Tuz Lake Natural Gas Storage Plant which will enable to store 1 billion m3 natural gas in a year is started in 2010 and planned to be completed in 2018. But dissolving the salt inside the underground caves require huge amounts of water and cause pressure on existing limited fresh water resources in the region. Freshwater is planned to be brought from Hirfanli Dam which is outside the Special Environmental Protection Area (120 km distance). The plant project is also questioned due to its proximity to the fault line between Aksaray and Sereflikochisar and the possibility of a disaster.

Project Area (in hectares)740000
Level of Investment (in USD)Gas Storage Plant - USD 640,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population150,000-200,000
Start Date1997
Company Names or State EnterprisesGeneral Directorate of State Hydraulic Works from Turkey - for Esmekaya Dam
ATLAS Petroleum, Gas, Import, Export and Marketing Inc. from Turkey - for natural gas storage
China Tianchen Engineering Corporation from China - for natural gas storage
BOTAS from Turkey - for natural gas storage
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock, Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources
International and Financial InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersNature Association, WWF Turkey
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
When did the mobilization beginLATENT (no visible resistance)
Groups MobilizingNo visible mobilization
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Soil erosion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement
OtherLoss of income, difficulties in access to water
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseMigration/displacement
In 2003 Konya MP Atilla Kart presented a written parliamentary question about the gas storage plant to the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Some actions that have been taken for the area: WWF Turkey carried out Konya Closed Basin Integrated Management Project, but no progress has been made in the conservation of the basin.

Actions for creating public opinion against the plant have not given positive results either. For example, Nature Association organised an event to draw attention to the biodiversity loss and desertification at Tuz Lake by writing Help sign on the surface of the lake using human bodies.

As a result, despite being a Special Environmental Protection Area due to its ecological features, an effective protection has not been observed in Tuz Lake yet.
Sources and Materials

Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation

Direct Income Support Program


Basak, E. 2003. Ecological and Socio-Economic Valuation of Tuz Gl Specially Protected Area, Central Anatolia, Turkey. MSc Thesis, Wageningen University.

Ekercin, S., 2001-2007. Uzaktan Alglama ve Corafi Bilgi Sistemleri Entegrasyonu ile Tuz Gl ve Yakn evresinin Zamana Bal Deiim Analizi. Doktora Tezi, T Fen Bilimleri Enstits.

Tuz Lake Consortium. 2001. Integrated Feasibility Study for the Sanitation of the Tuz Lake Basin. Final Report for Authority for the Protection of Special Areas, Turkish Ministry of Environment. Ankara.

WWF. 2010. Turkiyenin Yarinlari Projesi Sonu Raporu. (Report - Turkish)


Radikal: Tuz Glnn llemesine 10 yl kald (10 years to the desertification of Tuz Lake Turkish)
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WWF Turkey
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Milliyet: Uydu fotograflarndan Tuz Golunun tukenisi (Satellite photographs of the extinction Tuz Golu - Turkish)
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Radikal: Tuz Golunde Mutsuz Flamingolar (Unhappy Flamingos of Tuz Golu - Turkish)
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Vatan : Cinliler,Tuz Golunun icini oyup dogalgaz deposu yapacak (Chinese company will carve Tuz Golu into a natural gas tank - Turkish)
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Haber7: Tuz Golunun altina dogal gaz deposu (natural gas storage under Tuz Golu -Turkish)
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Habervitrini : Turkiyenin Dogalgaz Deposu Yapilmak Istenen Tuz Golu, 1. Dereceden 5. Dereceye Kadar Deprem Bolgesi (Natural Gas Tank to be made under Tuz Golu is on 1st to 5th degree earthquake zone - Turkish)
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Enerji Enstitusu (Energy Institute): BOTAS, 569 milyona gazi Tuz Golune depolayacak (BOTAS will pay 569 million, to store gas under Tuz Golu - Turkish)
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Media Links

Turkeys Lake Tuz could disappear by 2015
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Meta Information
ContributorEsra Basak
Last update08/04/2014