Southeast Anatolia Project

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Location of the project in Turkey

The Southeast Anatolia Project ( Turkish Güneydoğu Anadolu Projesi ; GAP) is the largest regional development project in Turkey . It comprises a total of 22 dams , 19 hydropower plants and irrigation systems along the two rivers Euphrates and Tigris . The idea for this project originally came up in the 1970s.

Components of the CAP

The GAP is intended to open up the waters of the Euphrates and Tigris for economic use. These two rivers represent 28 percent of the Turkish water potential. The project takes into account various fields of trade such as agriculture , industry , transport , infrastructure , tourism , health , education and culture . It extends over several planning phases.

Ataturk Dam on the Euphrates, 1990
View of the Ataturk Dam 2001


The Ataturk Dam is the largest of the 22 dams. He dammed the water of the Euphrates . Most of its accumulated water is channeled via the two Şanlıurfa tunnels to agricultural areas for irrigation. The Ataturk reservoir has 1.5 times the area of Lake Constance . The hydropower plant has a total output of 2400 MW and generates almost 10% of Turkey's electrical energy.

The reservoir threatened to silt up 15 years after its completion. The soil of the surrounding mountains eroded more and more and slipped into the reservoir. After alarms from scientists and the press, the Turkish government decided in 1998 to reforest the slopes around the Ataturk reservoir. An area the size of the Saarland should be greened. During the largest ecological rescue operation in the history of Turkey, thousands of volunteer students planted trees on the shore of the lake.

The Birecik barrage on the Euphrates is located near Birecik below the Ataturk Dam. In addition to generating electricity, it is also used for agricultural irrigation and consists of a 2.5 km long dam. The turbines with a total output of 672 MW generate 2.5 billion kilowatt hours per year.

In the years 1996-2000 the Karkamış barrage with a power plant output of 189 MW was built.

The Ilisu Dam is intended to dam the Tigris and would be built near the Syrian and Iraqi borders. The dam is to be 135 meters high and 1,820 meters long and flood an area of ​​313 square kilometers, including historical cultural monuments such as the medieval town of Hasankeyf . The power plant output is 1200 MW.

Flood relief of a reservoir

Temporal and spatial dimension

Overview map of the project, status 2005

In addition to irrigation of agricultural land and electricity generation , the CAP also includes the construction of agricultural and urban infrastructure, forestry, education and health care. According to state planning, the regional development plan should be completed in 2010 and cost $ 32 billion. Between the beginning of the project and the year 2000 (as part of the 1989-2005 master plan), $ 14 billion had been invested. However, the subsidy for this project was limited due to high national debt.

The project comprises nine provinces that are located in historical Upper Mesopotamia between the two rivers Euphrates and Tigris:

Goals of the CAP

With the completion of the project several goals are connected, especially the economic and social development of the long-neglected south-east of Turkey. Most of the Kurdish minority lives in this area. The government hopes that the economic development will also ease the social situation of the Kurds and thus also contribute to solving the Kurdish question. In addition, the development program is intended to reduce internal migration and rural exodus from east to west.

The objectives are:

  • Irrigation and reclamation of the barren land in Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran
  • Development of the underdeveloped east of Turkey and an increase in the living standards and income levels of the population
  • Creation of 5 million new jobs in all areas (service, industry and agriculture)
  • Generating energy and reducing dependence on fossil fuels
  • additional government revenue from water trade with neighboring countries and the whole of the Middle East
  • Irrigation of the steppe to develop agricultural areas
  • Diversification of agricultural products
Irrigation in the region, picture from 2005
  • Increase in exports from the region through export-oriented agricultural production
  • Settlement of industries: In the first stage, a settlement of food processing is planned, followed by other branches of industry such as furniture manufacturing, textiles and chemicals.
  • Promotion of tourism: development of many historical and archaeological sites by developing infrastructure (roads, hotels, etc.)
  • Social transformation: women's projects, training, educational activities and health services


Cotton-growing areas in Turkey

With the help of huge irrigation systems, an area of ​​1.7 million hectares between the two rivers is to be irrigated and thus opened up for agricultural use. That is almost the size of Thuringia . With the completion of the CAP, the irrigated area of ​​Turkey is estimated to double.

In the production of cotton alone , an increase from the current 150,000 tons to 400,000 tons is expected. This makes the region one of the four most important cultivation areas for cotton. Cotton is important for Turkey because its demand for the raw material is greater than its capacity to meet its own needs. Alongside China and other countries, Turkey is already one of the main textile producers in the world.

In addition to cotton fields, there are also pistachio and almond tree plantations , strawberry , soybean and wheat fields and turkey farms .

The yields of cotton, barley and wheat tripled on the irrigated areas, especially in the plains around Harran . As has become known from experience with other dam constructions, after commissioning, soil salts rise along with the water table and make the soil sterile. The Harran plain was once one of the largest granaries in Turkey, but today more than 20% of the irrigation area is too salty in order to still be of use as a cultivation area.

Irrigation canal in Harran


At the moment, the establishment of fish farms on the newly created lakes is being considered. Such a development is already emerging on the reservoirs around the Ataturk Dam.


The already existing 17 hydropower plants supply Turkey with 8.9 billion kilowatt hours of energy. The network of these 17 hydropower plants is one of the largest in the world. After completion, the region should produce an amount of energy of 27 billion kilowatt hours annually. This corresponds to approx. 13% of the Turkish annual requirement.

Participation of German companies / Hermes guarantees

Several companies from Austria , Germany and Switzerland are investing in the project, especially companies from the construction and electrical sectors. After the World Bank and the major Swiss bank UBS withdrew from the project, the German banks Sparkasse and Deka-Bank, which belongs to the Sparkasse Group , are supporting the project. The governments of the countries mentioned protect their companies with so-called Hermes guarantees with a sum of 450 million euros. The total value of the investment is 1.2 billion euros.

Development of the project

Project status June 2000
Finished under construction Planned total
Nominal electrical power (MW) 4,490 898 1,947 7,335
Electricity generation (MWh / year) 16,704 3,286 7.119 27,109
Irrigated area (ha) 212.197 159.147 1,428,656 1,800,000
Number of dams 12 2 8th 22nd
Number of hydropower plants 6th 2 10 18th

In the early 1990s, at the height of the fighting between the PKK and the Turkish army , the project came to an almost complete standstill. The original goal of completing the project by 2010 was not achieved. Some dams are overdue to be completed, such as the one near Hatay . There are many reasons for the delay. These include economic crises, diplomatic problems and the combat operations against the PKK during the long project period.

A series of economic setbacks repeatedly led governments to turn off the money tap for the project, or at least reduce the flow of money.

In addition, legal issues had to be clarified again and again. This mainly concerned expropriations and the flooding of historical places.

Implications and problems


So far, hardly any jobs have been created for residents. Most of the “good” jobs go to well-trained workers from western Turkey. In addition, the old large landowners ( Agas ) in particular benefit from the new agricultural areas .

Another problem is the relocation of villages and their inhabitants from areas that are flooded by the damming of the rivers. Over 4,000 villages and more than 5,000 settlements are affected by the resettlement. The Ataturk, Karakaya and Bireçik dams alone have resulted in the relocation of around 90,000 residents. Many of those affected receive inadequate compensation for their abandoned lands and possessions or their income is below the level they previously earned. Therefore, the majority of the compensated persons are dissatisfied with their new settlements.

70% of the developable GAP area is state property, 25% is distributed among the large landowners and only 5% among the large number of small farmers. In order to achieve optimal agricultural yields, large areas have to be worked with machines, fertilizers and pesticides. The majority of smallholders will most likely not be able to raise the financial resources for these investments. Therefore hardly any small farmers will benefit from this project, only the old large landowners. It is therefore doubtful whether the desired improvement in living standards and an increase in farmers' incomes will be achieved.

Ecologically and culturally

Problems with the neighboring countries

The project is being viewed with suspicion and concern by the governments of the neighboring states of Syria and Iraq . The dams and irrigation systems are reaching their limits. Leading politicians in both countries fear that Turkey could one day use water as an instrument of political power. Due to the large storage capacities of the dams, Turkey is able to simply "turn off" the water for both neighbors at any time. The fears are not exactly allayed by corresponding statements by Turkish politicians: The former Prime Minister and later President Turgut Özal is quoted as saying: "The other states in the region have oil , we have water." The distrust of the neighbors also increased because the Turkey was closely allied with the US and Israel .

Through the use of pesticides and other agents, chemically contaminated water reaches the Syrian farmers, who are increasingly complaining about crop losses. In addition, both Syria and Iraq have rapidly growing populations, a large part of which are made up of small farmers. It can therefore be assumed that their water requirements will increase in the future and that social tensions will increase.

These problems also make the GAP complex one of the most heavily guarded and protected objects of its kind. Among other things, anti-aircraft missiles are stationed in the region to protect the dams.

Water supply

The Şanlıurfa tunnels are each 26.2 km long and 7.62 m inside diameter, the longest irrigation tunnels in the world. These two tunnels alone withdraw a water volume of 328 m³ / s from the Euphrates. The rivers Euphrates and Tigris carry 50 billion m³ of water annually.

Currently, a water volume of approx. 900 m³ / s flows over the Syrian-Turkish border over the Euphrates. In bilateral negotiations in 1984 and 1987, Turkey promised the states Syria and Iraq a water volume of 500 m³ / s. Syria and Iraq share the water at a ratio of 42 to 58.

In legal terms, negotiations have stalled. The states hide behind opposing positions based on different international legal conceptions. Syria and Iraq are trying to enforce the legal concept of the “shared resource”, which would give them 2/3 of the water. Turkey favors the concept of “equitable and reasonable utilization”, as it was taken as a basis by the UN International Law Commission in its “Draft Articles on the Law of Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses”.

Water losses in the Middle East (NASA Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment 2013)

In February 2013, a study with the participation of NASA became known. According to this, the water loss in the years 2003-2010 is about 144 cubic kilometers (almost three times the amount of Lake Constance). Evaluated were u. a. Images of Landsat - Earth observation satellites .

See also


  • “Dams are a typical phenomenon for third world countries. Gigantic dam projects to generate hydropower mean nothing more than ecological suicide. It is no different with smaller dams: they bring temporary wealth, but in the long term they are a catastrophe for agriculture. The biggest problem in Turkey is that the choice of locations for the dams is not based on scientific criteria. That's very sad. Long-term interests are sacrificed for short-term profit. " Ismail Duman, University of Istanbul (from: " Treasures in a wet grave. " ( Memento from June 17, 2004 in the Internet Archive ) First broadcast on NDR television on December 3, 2002.)
  • “The Turkish-Syrian protocol of 1987 guaranteed an average water drainage of 500 cubic meters per second for the Euphrates sub-bordering Syria and Iraq. Yet the Turkish 'Southeast Anatolian Development Project' ... remained a point of conflict. Turkey is behaving as a regional water hegemon, ... so the accusation from Damascus and Baghdad. Turkey, on the other hand, claimed its right to development and created facts ... Nonetheless, it stuck to the 1987 protocol for the rest. "()


in order of appearance

  • Republic of Turkey, Prime Minister (Ed.): The Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP) . GAP Area Development Office, Ankara 1990, 31 pages, maps.
  • Heidi Hinz-Karadeniz, Rainer Stoodt: The water trap . From the war for oil to the war for water: the rise and fall of a major project in Kurdistan . Focus, Giessen 1993, ISBN 3-88349-403-8 .
  • Ernst Struck: The Southeast Anatolia Project. Irrigation and its consequences . In: Geographische Rundschau , vol. 46 (1994), issue 2, pp. 88-95.
  • Joerg Dietziker: Turkish dams and Swiss helpers. Water as a weapon. The importance of the Southeast Anatolia GAP project and the planned destruction of Hasankeyf by Sulzer Hydro and ABB Switzerland. A documentation . Declaration of Bern , Bern 1998, ISBN 3-905550-20-2 ( table of contents ).
  • Mukaddes Şahin: Political megalomania or sensible development policy? The Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP) from a benefit-cost perspective . Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 1999, ISBN 3-631-35038-4 .
  • Agis Thiede, Amed Omeri: The Destruction of Kurdistan. The Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP), Hasankeyf and the expulsion of the Kurds . Edited by the Kurdistan AG of the Free University of Berlin . General student committee of the FU Berlin 2001.
  • Ernst Struck: The water of the Euphrates and Tigris. The instrumentalization of a natural resource . In: Asia , vol. 2007, pp. 29–42.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Official Power Point Presentation , page 7
  2. Official PowerPoint presentation , page 6
  3. Official PowerPoint presentation , page 9
  4. ARTE GEIE, archived copy ( memento of the original dated February 14, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. ^ GAP Regional Development Administration. Retrieved December 6, 2018 .
  6. Electricity consumption in a global comparison of countries - electricity consumption per capita. Retrieved December 6, 2018 .
  7. Press release of March 26, 2007 ( Memento of the original of May 11, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  8. Nicolas Bremer: The regulation of the non-navigational use of the Euphrates and Tigris River System: international law regulating the distribution and utilization of the water of Euphrates and Tigris illustrated by the Ataturk and Ilisu dams . The Hague 2017, ISBN 978-94-6236-744-9 , pp. 107 .
  9. UN Treaty Series Volume 1724. (PDF) p. 28 , accessed on December 6, 2018 (English).
  10. ^ Joint Minutes Concerning the Provisional Division of the Waters of the Euph-rates River (1989). (Word file) Retrieved December 6, 2018 (English).
  11. NASA Satellites Find Freshwater Losses in Middle East ,, February 12, 2013, accessed on March 13, 2013: Freshwater Stores Shrank in Tigris-Euphrates Basin
  12. Waltina Scheumann: Syria and Irak: Kampf ums Wasser
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on November 5, 2005 .