Sultan Marshes Wetland, Turkey


Natural balance and hydrologic cycle at Sultan Marshes were destroyed due to the construction of dams, wells and drainage channels due to basin-wide irrigated farming support policies that started in Develi Basin in 1973. From the beginning of 2000s, the water quantity of the Sultan Marshes decreased dangerously because of the water-guzzling-products farming, agricultural irrigation, illegal well drilling, losses due to the existing irrigation techniques and less water flow to the marshlands due to the dams; as from 2003 marshlands have almost dried out. The effects on local people were unequal: while landowners adopted agricultural irrigation, loan use, base price, market support systems that were prioritized for the last 25 years, landless farmers who make their own living through reed and sedge cutting and animal husbandry on open pastures have lost their sources of income. Decrease in the amount and quality of reeds and poor quality animal production due to the dried pastures put these groups living at risk. On the other hand the loss of biodiversity and the drop in the bird species richness (for which the region was known) reached a serious level.

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Basic Data
NameSultan Marshes Wetland, Turkey
SiteYesilhisar and Develi districts (Sindelhoyuk town and Ovaciftlik, Yesilova, Yenihayat, Musahacili, Cayirozu, Soysalli villages)
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
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Specific CommoditiesWater
Live Animals
Biological resources
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsDeveli Irrigation Project is comprised of 3 dams (Akkoy, Agcasar and Kovali dams built in 1967, 1986 and 1987 respectively), 390 deep wells and wide-reaching drainage channels. According to official data, irrigation capacity of the project is 28.000 ha and irrigated agriculture area is 78.000 ha. The difference (approximately 1/3) comes from illegally drilled wells. The problem of illegal water use remains unsolved because of General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works reluctant policies about prosecuting and penalizing illegal well drillings. On the other hand, effects of the same support policy are reflected in the water quantity needed for the chosen products and inefficiency of the irrigation methods. According to 2003 data, 90% of the basin-wide irrigation is done through surface irrigation which causes 60-65% water loss. Water requirement of the plants produced in the basin is 398 million m3 per year.

According to 2007 calculations, directing water to the agricultural lands through dams and wells render the water amount of marshlands 30 million m3 less than the level demanded by the natural cycle. Marshlands have decreased from 3.900 ha to 400 ha in the last 20 years.

Project Area (in hectares)25000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population9,000 (local population, 2003 data)
Start Date1998
Relevant government actorsThe General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works , (Central Office, Provincial Directorate of Kayseri, Regional Directorate of Kayseri), Provincial Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks - Kayseri, Provincial Directorate of Agriculture - Kayseri
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersNature Association (Doga Dernegi) (in 2008)
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)
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Fires, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
OtherLoss of income, difficulties in access to water, loss of cultural heritage, loss of or damage on historical artifacts
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Institutional changes
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Currently the conflict is latent and no groups or local organisations work for environmental justice.
Sources and Materials

Management Pilot Project in Turkey (GEF 2). In Assessment and Provision of Environmental Flows in Mediterranean Watercourses: Basic Concepts, Methodologies and Emerging Practice, Mediterranean Case Study. IUCN-The World Conservation Union. Retrieved from
[click to view]

Akbulut, B. (2011). 'State Hegemony and Sustainable Development: A Political Economy Analysis of Two Local Experiences in Turkey' Unpublished PhD dissertation. University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA.

Gurer, I. (2004). 'Water Resources Management and Use in Develi Plain'.

Report. Gazi University Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, Department of Civil Engineering, Ankara.

Karabasa, S. (2002). 'Sultan Sazligi ve Saz Kesimi (Sultan Sazligi and Reed Cutting)'.

Research Report, Ankara University, Ankara

Ozesmi, U. (2002). 'Sultan Sazligi Reed Cutting Plan'. Erciyes University, Department of

Environmental Engineering, Kayseri.

Ozesmi, U., and Gurer, . (2003). 'Sultan Sazligi: Biodiversity and Natural Resources'

Republic of Turkey Ministry of Environment and Forestry General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks. (2007b). Sultan Sazligi National Park and

Ramsar Site Management Plan. Ankara: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

Sarkisla, A. (2002). 'Sultan Sazligi Tabiati Koruma Alani Sosyal Degerlendirme Raporu (Sultan Sazligi Protected Area Social Evaluation Report)'. Kayseri Provincial Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks, Kayseri

Media Links

Photo gallery of the Kayseri City Governorate:
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorBengi Akbulut
Last update08/04/2014