Rich deposits of metal ores, such as iron, chromium, copper, zinc, and lead ores, as well as the extraction of crude oil, bituminous coal, and chemical raw materials, have an impact on the country’s economic growth and the natural environment’s functioning. Turkey’s major cities, such as Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Bursa, and Adana, are not only the country’s economic epicentre, but also a source of significant emissions from technological and communication infrastructure. The impact of transportation emissions or industrial pollutants on urban green space and the health of city dwellers is significant. Actions of municipal authorities may contribute to reducing environmental adverse factors, improving the quality of life, and ensuring simultaneous economic development. The article presents the problems of the largest cities in Turkey in managing urban logistic processes, their impact on the natural environment, and the opportunities to eliminate unfavorable ecological factors while simultaneously maintaining economic growth.

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Six industrial parks located in Dilovasi district in Turkey which cause air pollution_©Ufuk Çeri
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Mean annual SO2 levels in selected Turkish cities between 1992 and 2001_©Hasan Goksel Ozdilek
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Mean annual SO2 levels in selected Turkish cities between 1992 and 2001_©Hasan Goksel Ozdilek

The ecological situation of Turkey 

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Priority of the environmental problems experienced in Turkey_©Ahmet Tolunay

In the 1970s, Turkey became involved in environmental concerns for the first time. The secretary of state for the environment was appointed in 1978, and his or her responsibilities encompassed both national and international environmental concerns. However, environmental policy adaption could not keep up with the country’s industrial development rate. It was not until the early 1990s that the environmental department’s area of responsibility was expanded and other skills were added, such as the ability to impose fines for non-compliance with pro-ecological legislative requirements. Currently, the Ministry of the Environment’s responsibilities include the following (Okumus, 2002):

  • Proper use of land,
  • Preservation of natural resources,
  • Nature conservation,
  • Protection of plant and animal species,
  • Raising the environmental awareness of society, 
  • Protection of nature reserves,
  • Establishing ecological policies and strategies, 
  • Coordinating environmental activities at every level of the state hierarchy,
  • Issuing environmental licenses, 
  • Actions to improve air quality,
  • Creating legal guidelines for the storage, collection, and disposal of hazardous, medicinal, and solid trash
  • Protection of water reservoirs,
  • Control of toxic chemicals.
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Turkey annual mean amounts for 2011,taken for ambient air pollution database_©World Health Organisation

Turkey is now battling with the problem of adjusting environmental regulations to the industry’s ongoing expansion. The execution of appropriate pro-ecological investments will take place in the following years (Okumus, 2002). Turkey has expanded its usage of renewable energy and promoted energy efficiency. Turkey ranked 66th out of 178 nations in the 2015 Environmental Performance Index. Climate performance, on the other hand, was assessed to be very bad, ranking 54th out of 61 countries. There has been an increase in greenhouse gas emissions to the environment, with emissions increasing by 5.1% since 2011. Regulations governing air quality in industrial zones are poorly enforced, and the impacts take years to be apparent. Regulations governing air quality in industrial zones are poorly enforced, and the impacts take years to manifest. Waste management issues also fail to perform the needed function. Turkey’s environmental difficulties have an impact on the country’s economic development. Businesses, citizens, and the government must suffer enormous expenses in adapting to the current condition of affairs (mer, Subidey, Schulz, Karadag, 2016).

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Sectoral emissions in Istanbul (Based on Incecik and Im, 2012)_©ScienceDirect

Turkey’s Most Sustainable Cities 

Gaziantep is the only city in Turkey with its own climate change action plan_©

According to Barş Baykan, author of a recent research on the Turkish government’s poor attempts to cut carbon emissions, municipalities frequently achieve environmental goals more quickly and efficiently than national administrations.

  1. Akbyk – It’s merely a community of 365 people, the majority of whom are retired. However, after they were unable to pay their energy bills and the state electricity provider disconnected their electric-powered water pump, these determined elderly folks collected nearly $28,000 and toiled for free to construct their own 50 KW wind turbine. Because the water pump only uses 37 KW of electricity, the villages will be able to sell their extra wind power to the national grid. They’ve set a model for sustainable energy development that Turkey’s major cities would do well to emulate.
  2. Antalya – This sun-drenched city on Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast has decided to become the country’s first solar city. Antalya’s Solar House, an education center and renewable energy display powered by 24 1-KW solar panels, a wind turbine, and numerous other renewable power sources, opened in April. Solar isn’t the only renewable energy project in the works in the city; a waste-to-biogas-to-energy conversion complex with a total capacity of 2 MW is also under construction.
  3. Eskişehir – In an April study of 29 businesses, Eskişehir was voted Turkey’s most sustainable city, and it will be the site of a partially solar-powered high-speed rail terminal station. If that isn’t green enough for you, check the canal system built by a past mayor to enhance traffic flow and reduce pollution in the city.
  4. Seferihisar – As Turkey’s first “slow city,” Seferihisar has positioned itself as a promoter of local agriculture and crop diversity. A seed festival was conducted in the city in February to allow farmers to exchange seeds as they used to without first obtaining official approval. In addition, projects encouraging local agriculture among youngsters have been undertaken in the city. Seferihisar is now one of Turkey’s five self-proclaimed “slow cities.” Akyaka in Mula province, Gökçeada in Anakkale, Tarakl in Sakarya, and Yenipazar in Aydn province are the others.
  5. Gaziantep – With the assistance of the French Development Agency, Gaziantep created Turkey’s first municipal climate change action plan. The final plan, which was issued in June, examines Gaziantep’s present energy use and GHG emissions balance to generate future sustainable urban development options. It is too early to tell how Gaziantep will implement them, but the presence of the plan is the first step toward municipal climate action.


In general, megacities have contributed to increasing pollution and environmental damage. Many variables influence pollution in cities, including geographical location, climate, meteorology, emissions from building heating, industry, traffic volume and intensity, trash management, and the quality of green spaces. The degree of air pollution in cities is determined by national technology and pollution control capabilities, as well as the willingness and ability to enhance air quality. Rapid urbanisation has increased the proportion of air pollution, particularly in emerging nations. Motor vehicles are responsible for more than 90% of dangerous chemical emissions into the atmosphere.To improve the quality of life in cities, new perspectives for the development of urban spaces and their successful administration are required (Incecik, Im, 2012).

Istanbul’s natural environment is in disrepair. Globalization processes do not help to improve the city’s ecosystem; on the contrary, they hurt it. The city’s economic expansion has a negative impact on air quality, the amount of green spaces, and the evolution of living species. Air pollution will worsen, and the city’s quality of life will deteriorate. There will be a large increase in sickness incidences and deaths, resulting in an economic slowdown and a scarcity of labour. The Istanbul Chamber of Geological Engineers underlines that the removal of woods inside city borders would result in the city’s ecology collapsing. The city’s most significant biological region, which also serves as a forest corridor to the Black Sea, consists of 6672 hectares of sea pine forests, stone pines, Turkish pines, black pines, oaks, hornbeams, ash trees, limes, alders, and other species. The destruction of this ecosystem will have irrevocable effects for the whole country’s ecology (Northern Forests Defense, 2015).


Harte, J., 2022. Turkey’s Most Sustainable Cities Share A Spotlight – Green Prophet. [online] Green Prophet. Available at: <>

Kaçaroğlu, F. and Günay, G., 1997. Groundwater nitrate pollution in an alluvium aquifer, Eskişehir urban area and its vicinity, Turkey. Environmental Geology, 31(3-4), pp.178-184.

Kulińska, E. and Dendera – Gruszka, M., 2019. Green cities – problems and solutions in Turkey. Transportation Research Procedia, 39, pp.242-251.

Özdilek, H., 2006. An Analogy on Assessment of Urban Air Pollution in Turkey Over the Turn of the Millennium (1992–2001). Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 122(1-3), pp.203-219.

Smith, B., 2022. Turkey: Environmental Issues, Policies and Clean Technology. [online] Available at: <> 2015. BRIEFING Turkey country briefing – The European environment — state and outlook 2015. [online] Available at: <>


Arushi is an architect and interior designer who loves to travel and explore new places. She believes each place has its own story to tell. Her passion for history, culture and climate and how they all are related to architecture intrigues and motivates her to fulfil her goal to travel across the world.