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Third Airport in Istanbul, Turkey


Istanbul's Third Airport Project (henceforward Istanbul Airport), was auctioned by the General Directorate of Infrastructure Investments of the Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications on 3 May 2013 with the "Build-Operate-Transfer" model. The auction was won by Cengiz - Kolin - Limak - MAPA - Kalyon Joint Venture Group with 10 billion 247 million euro (cost), 22 billion 152 million euro (tender price). The project's architectural owners have been Grimshaw, Nordic Office of Architecture, Haptic Architects. 

The project covers an area of ​​91.666.158 m2. The giantness of the project is not due to the airport alone. Founder and CEO architect Gudmund Stokke, a member of the British Grimshaw Architects, Haptic Architech, Arup Associates and Nordic Office (NO) architectural consortium, who undertook the architectural design of the project, says that in the drawing of the project, the weight is given to "solutions such as shops and business center in the middle of the building". According to the company's website, 3,500 hectares of land are used for the airport, while an aviation medical center and a commercial area with a large shopping facility are envisaged. 

While presenting the project, the Nordic Architecture team, who made a presentation at the World Architecture Festival (WAF), explains its connection with the city to be established in the region: “The project consisting of three terminal buildings and 6 runways opens to the runways on the seaside and connects to an airport city on the land side. There are hotels, food and beverage areas, shopping and commercial units in this new city. " 

The first statements made confirm the estimates of the Bahçeşehir University Economic and Social Research Center (BETAM) Report. The expectation is that the rest of the region will be opened for construction projects and especially for commercial function projects. On the other hand, the “new airport city" will further plunder the green areas and watersheds, and the population density and traffic this creates will irreversibly destroy the Northern Forests.

The area considered for the project does not only threaten the ecological and social sustainability of the new airport city but also puts flight safety at risk due to the local meteorological conditions and the infill ground. The ecological sustainability is threatened due to the harsh meteorological conditions of the Black Sea coasts, especially dense fog, harsh winds and icing, the project area being on the bird migration routes, and the muddy and marshy ground that will not hold and thus will slip. Furthermore, in the technical report published by TMMOB Istanbul Provincial Coordination Board (İKK), it is clear that the lowering of the project elevation from 105 meters to 70 meters will likely render the airport inoperable, as the simulations show that landing and take-off from the land side are highly dangerous from the runways built at 70 meters altitude, according to international flight safety criteria.

Also, the following risks are expressed under the headings in the project's EIA reports:

1- Geological situation

2- Geomorphological situation

3- Hydrogeological effect

4- Birds and migration routes

5- Landslides (effect of superficial and deep landslides)

6- Plant flora

7- Agriculture and animal husbandry

8- Natural resources (Fossil fuels, coal mines), (clay, sand and aggregate mines)

9- Earthquake and tectonic structure

Finally, the tender of the project was carried out in violation of the EIA Regulation Article 6., thus without having a positive decision on the EIA of the project. Istanbul Airport is inaugurated on 29 October  2018 and has been serving its passengers since 6 April 2019.

The main ecological issues are the following:

1.Forests / Green Areas

The forests of Istanbul are one of the 200 important ecological regions in the world, and one of the 100 forests that need urgent protection in Europe. Forests densifying in the north of the city also contain important water resources of the city. Since the Northern Forests are not very fragmented, it has also facilitated the development of wildlife there. Another important effect on the city is that they clean the air through the northern winds, which are the dominant wind direction of the city, and at the same time cool the city. Destroying forests means destroying all these vital effects on the city.

In the 1st EIA page 134 of March 2013, it is stated that 657 thousand 950 of the 2 million 513 thousand 341 trees in the project area will be cut and 1 million 855 thousand 391 trees will be relocated. These numbers are not included in the 2nd and 3rd EIA Reports. However, on page 197 of the 3rd EIA Report, it is stated that young saplings are not included in the number of trees to be cut. In this case, this number may be much higher: "The trees below 8 cm are not included in the calculation of the number of trees to be cut and wealth, as they are not included in the inventory". On page 134 of the 1st EIA Report, it is stated that the types of trees and some of them will be relocated, but it is also stated that it will not be possible to move all trees.

Megaprojects also lead to the transformation of the region into new areas of use, thus more of Istanbul's forests are being damaged. There is also a decrease in the benefits provided by forests (wood production, water production, climate regulation, carbon binding, and oxygen production, reducing air pollution, living environment, etc.).

2. Water Basins

660 hectares of the 3rd Airport project area consists of lakes and ponds, and this amount does not include the impact area. At the same time, a part of the mentioned project area remains in the long-distance protection zone of Pirinççi Dam, Terkos Lake and Alibey Dam, whose planning phase is currently underway. Terkos Lake has 22% of the freshwater reserves around Istanbul with its water potential. It meets a significant part of the city's domestic water. At the same time, Terkos Lake acts as a reservoir for the waters coming from Istranca Creek. However, the future of Terkos Lake is under threat as the streams that are within the boundaries of the project area and feeding the Terkos Dam and Alibeyköy Dam are endangered due to the project.

As a matter of fact, the 3rd EIA Report states on page 279 that the beds of the rivers in the area are destroyed during the construction works of the project. On page 284 of the report, the serious impacts of the project on Terkos Lake are counted: “2 streams feeding the Terkos Lake basin with a catchment area of ​​736.2 km2 and a water area of ​​39 km2 will be disconnected as a result of the planned construction works. As a result of the destruction of the streams in question, the amount of water collected in the dam will decrease and the pollution loads will increase with runoff flows. The Ceko Stream feeding the Terkos Lake basin and a part of the Yeniköy Stream with the stream named Üstülük Deresi will be destroyed. In this context, it is seen that Terkos stream flow routes will be affected by this situation and the water potential will decrease ”.

Another dire development highlighted by the report is the pollution to be caused in dams: “The pollution expected to enter the rivers that supply water to the dams; it will be transported to dams with these rivers ”(p. 281). In addition, dust and exhaust emissions that will occur during construction activities and excavation dumping during the construction phase of the project will adversely affect the lake. In spite of such a dire picture, in the EIA report no data is available on how much pollution will be created in drinking water basins and how many m3/year the capacity of the drinking water resource will decrease, the change that will occur in the pollution profile in water quality. 

3. Wetlands

New wetlands and ecosystems are formed as a result of the filling of the mine craters of the abandoned mining enterprises within the project area (due to the very high water saturation rate of the ground). According to the 1st EIA Report, there are 70 lakes, ponds, and ponds in the area. According to the Technical Trip Report of the Union of Chambers of Engineers and Architects of Turkey (TMMOB) Istanbul Branch, “... the wetlands are formed by the filling of mine craters (due to the very high water saturation rate of the ground) causing the restoration of vitality destroyed by mining activities and formed new ecosystems in the region. There are also natural lakes in the same vicinity, which can be distinguished by the abundance and prevalence of reeds ”(p. 3). Continuing with the same report: “It has been observed that there are fish species such as pike, velvet carp, catfish and mirror carp in the ponds of these wetlands. In particular, the pike is an important fish species that is less common than others and is found in these ponds. It has also been observed that there are many types of marine flora in ponds."

According to the Technical Trip Report of Chamber of Environmental Engineers Istanbul Branch, the underground water resources that feed the dams are to be negatively affected: "The information obtained from many drilling studies in the area, the water content of the field surface, the visible water saturation rate of the craters and as a result of the interviews, though drilling works carried out up to 70m show that that there is freshwater after 20m in the area and that the water content continues as the drilling goes deeper than that. This situation in the area indicates that underground water resources will be damaged. These water resources, which are located very close to the Terkos Water Basin, are possible water resources feeding the basin. Therefore, the water content and amount of the basins are also affected. "

In addition, megaprojects, including the 3rd Airport for the Northern Forests, lead to concreting of the water collection basins in the entire Marmara Region and also speed up the mixing of precipitation with sewage into the sea. In short, these projects increase and accelerate drought and thirst, instead of taking precautions against them.

4. Air Pollution

It can be expected that Istanbul, which is losing its Northern Forests, will be deprived of the fresh air and coolness coming from the winds from the north and, on the contrary, the winds blowing from the north will pollute the air of the city. On the days when north-east wind (poyraz), one of the two main winds of the city, blows, we can say that we will be faced with layered air pollution as the gas emissions of the aircraft will be scattered over the city. Emissions from airplanes spread to the whole southern region of the city, especially to Bakırköy and its surroundings.

5.Flora and Fauna

If we quote from page 126 of the EIA Report, "Terkos Dam Lake and its surrounding forestland and coastline (forest, heathland, wetland, dune and rocky areas) are one of our floral areas that have international importance especially in terms of fresh water and dune ecosystem. The region, which has the characteristics of sand dune and water flora in Istanbul, has been protected by international agreements due to its rich flora and rare plant species on a global and national scale (DHKD; 2000)..." Extremely rare plant species and life at the edge of Terkos Dam Lake and in water resources. If we continue from the EIA Report again, according to Annex 18 of the EIA Report, "in case the project is realized, there will be a large floristic loss of habitat and biomass in the area". Professor of Biology, Ankara University Faculty of Science. Dr. According to the "Ecological Assessment Report" prepared by Latif Kurt, detailed information about the flora and fauna in the region is included, and it is repeated that there will be "a great loss of habitat and biomass" with the airport. It is also stated that it was extremely important to examine the region in terms of hydrobiology and ornithology (ornithology).

In addition, the 3rd Airport negatively affects the wildlife here. Since the forest areas on both sides of Istanbul are not fragmented much, they are important for wildlife. Mega projects lead to the fragmentation of the habitats of the wildlife by increasing both connection roads and the development in these areas. As a result of habitat fragmentation, living beings are forced to live in smaller areas, and in this case, it is difficult to feed and reach water, and genetic disorders may also occur as a result of reproduction in small communities.

6. Birds

Annex 19 of the EIA Report defines the area where the 3rd Airport project is built as “an area where many bird species continue their vital activities due to the ecosystem diversity it hosts”. Again according to the report, this region, "Turkey is located on bird migration route of one of the routes that now." Consequently, the lives of birds are also under threat, as “an area where many bird species continue their vital activities” is destroyed.

Ornithologist Assoc. Prof. Zeynel Arslangündoğdu explains how deficient and incorrect the EIA Report is in terms of bird species for the 3rd Airport project, and underlines that 17 bird species are specified in the EIA Report, whereas 160 species live only in the Belgrad Forest, therefore at least 200 species are seen and live in the Northern Forests. Arslangündoğdu emphasized that she was urgently asked for a report for the EIA, but that the birds should be observed for at least 2 years for EIA Reporting, and stated that this cannot be achieved in a short period of time because bird migrations increase/decrease periodically, therefore the data obtained in the low period will not be healthy.

Although the EIA Report of the project does not worry much about the future of bird species, it has to address the problems that may arise in terms of flight safety (pp: 185-190). In the report, which seems to have lacked the necessary counts and determinations to detect the threat of bird strikes, it promises that these investigations will be carried out in the future. The measures to be taken are listed as follows:

1) Environments that will attract birds will be eliminated

2) Coniferous trees will be planted around the airport

Project Risks

1. Birds and the Risk of Flight Safety

In bird and aircraft crashes in Turkey that took place so far in; the date, time of the collision, observation notes and the species of the birds are not collected in detail, and these data are only evaluated by the authorities under confidentiality and not shared with the public.

The risk of a collision caused by migratory birds passing over Istanbul and the traffic density is assumed to be the same. According to international standards, there should not be any garbage facilities closer than 13.5 km. to the airport because these facilities can attract millions of birds. However, 6 km. beyond the airport, there is a disposal facility of İSTAÇ in Göktürk, where 3 million tons of garbage is thrown annually. 30.000 - 50.000 seagulls in summer and 100.000 - 200.000 seagulls in winter feed in this area. In addition, birds frequently use mining sites and wetlands in and around the airport area. Flying birds pose a serious problem for airplanes.

2. Flight Safety Risks Caused by Meteorological Conditions

Kumköy and Florya Meteorology Station data were used in meteorological evaluations and air quality models in the EIA Report. Göztepe Meteorology data were used as altitude (main drilling data) data. First of all, Florya and Göztepe stations are far from the project area and are located in a more temperate region in terms of climate. Kumköy Station is 20-25 km away from the project area and is the closest meteorology station. However, in terms of location, Kumköy is located in a bay and therefore it can be said that it is a little more sheltered. The airport is open to winds coming directly from the sea. In order to fly, the plane must take the incoming wind from the front, it is dangerous to take it from the side or from the rear. It is also known that the Technical Unit of the Turkish Aeronautical Association could not approve the project due to the winds coming from the Black Sea side.

According to the EIA Report, this coastal region, which is stormy 107 days a year and heavily cloudy for 65 days, may cause problems in terms of air transportation and physical environmental conditions of landing and taking off on the runway.

3.Special Ground Structure

On the Black Sea coast, adjacent to the Durusu (Terkos) Lake, the land where the 3rd Airport is built is covered with pits opened by the old coal and sand quarry enterprises and lakes and ponds formed by the filling of these pits abandoned in time. The TMMOB Chamber of Geological Engineers (JMO) Report, which draws attention to the fact that the limit of the runway slope acceptable for the runways of international airports in terms of flight safety should be low or even close to zero, the area selected for the 3rd airport is located between a ridge stretching roughly 130 m in the south and the Black Sea coast in the north. He points out that he had to fill large amounts of fill and trim the hills to achieve the slope in question.

In the JMO Report, considering the 6 runways of the project, each 60 meters wide and varying between 3500 and 4100 meters, emergency landing routes, connection roads between runways and other areas to be used by aircraft in the apron area are considered together, the airport area is a very large area. It is pointed out that the part will be built on the ground with the above-mentioned disadvantages. The report, which describes the fact that the runways will be located on embankments of very different thicknesses not only in line with their length but also in their width, the report is about 20 m on one side of some runways. It proves with photographs that the other side comes across a lake while it is on the quarry waste. In this case, it is emphasized that runways with zero tolerance to embankment settlement and other areas associated with runways will experience a very serious and irreparable stabilization problem.

On the other hand, in the additional filling of approximately 2.5 billion cubic meters to be made to bring the runways to the slope accepted in international standards, there will definitely be settlements, sometimes in very large sizes, because settlements occur on every ground that is not composed of rocks resistant to both its own weight and other lithostatic pressures. one of the important warnings of the report. “Even fillings made using very special tools and with great care will settle over time. Moreover, the material required to realize a filling of this size will be made with materials of heterogeneous composition brought from elsewhere, which will further increase the amount and risk of settlement.

On page 94 of the EIA Report, it is stated by the General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration (MTA) that "it is thought that there may be sudden settlements and collapses on the ground due to the lithologies of the geological units, the high groundwater level and the depressions formed due to the coal operation in the field". However, there is no detailed geological and geotechnical study report within the scope of the project; It is also stated that this report will be given after the site is delivered and construction works will be carried out according to the result of the report. So how will the project proceed when a negative report comes out?

Another risk warned in the EIA Report (p: 115) is landslide. In the report, “Landslide and landslide movements are observed within the boundaries of the project area and in and around the excavation dump area located in the southwest of the area. Especially in the part of the Tayakadın-İhsaniye road corresponding to the excavation storage area, there are slips and road degradation due to landslides. In addition, there are ground slips in the lands that have been degraded as a result of mining activities. By saying, attention is drawn to the risk of landslides.

Istanbul Airport poses other kinds of risk, such as;

1-Liquefaction may occur due to the geological structure not being suitable for the project

2- Problems of bearing capacity caused by the filling of 2.5 billion m3

3-Sudden and long-term settlements to occur

4-Deep excavations and landslide situation

5-Risks such as the effect of groundwater and hydrogeological structure on fillings

Concerns and outrage were also expressed by airport construction workers for the many deaths at construction site [1].

TMMOB Istanbul Provincial Coordination Board (IKK) 3rd Airport Technical Report draws attention to another danger and states that it will not be possible to take off from runways at 70 meters altitude as a result of the reduction of the project elevation from 105 meters to 70 meters. The report points out that in a situation where the planes take off from a lower place of 70 meters instead of the 105-meter elevation, there should be no obstacles around them during the flight, whereas the Northern Marmara Motorway project is located in the south of the place where the 3rd Airport is built, and in this case there is a risk of crashing into the highway.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Third Airport in Istanbul, Turkey
State or province:Yeniköy- Akpınar Villages; Borders of Akpınar, İhsaniye, Odayeri, Baklalı, Zafer, Karaburun Villages
Location of conflict:Istanbul
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Urban development conflicts
Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:Land
Tourism services

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The project covers an area of ​​91.666.158 m2. It was originally decided to be built at Silivri-Gazitepe, in the 2009 Istanbul Environmental Plan. However, this plan was ignored and the location of the project was determined as Yeniköy-Akpınar villages within the borders of the Northern Forests. The project is located at Arnavutköy and Eyüp Districts, in the European Side of Istanbul, and is built on the border of Akpınar, Ihsaniye, Odayeri, Baklalı, Zafer, Karaburun Villages. It covers an area of ​​approximately 10 kilometers long and 7.5 kilometers wide.

The airport project area is approximately 7,650 hectares and is claimed to have the capacity to carry 150 million passengers a year. 6,173 hectares of the project area is forest, 1,180 hectares mining and other use, 660 hectares lakes, 236 hectares pastures, 60 hectares agriculture, and 2 hectares shrubs. Approximately 2.47% (189,182 hectares) of the project area is private property. The total forest area that is cut directly due to the Third Airport Project is 6,173 hectares. However, this amount does not include the impact area. When cuttings in the impact area are included, it is estimated that approximately 2.5 million trees are cut.

Project area:7,659
Level of Investment:12,000,000,000.00
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:15,000,000
Company names or state enterprises:Istanbul Grand Airport from Turkey

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Air pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Soil contamination
Potential: Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Mine tailing spills, Soil erosion, Other Environmental impacts, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage)
Health ImpactsVisible: Deaths
Potential: Occupational disease and accidents, Accidents
Other Health impactsWorker deaths during construction
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Repression
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Istanbul airport is built and in operation

Sources & Materials

[1] Middle East Online - Workers at new Istanbul airport held for protesting

500 workers arrested at construction site of new Istanbul airport for protesting work-related deaths, poor conditions.

Sunday 16/09/2018

Hurryet Daily News

June 08 2014

Activists denounce destruction of forests in colorful third airport protest

3. Havalimanı Bütünsel Bir Felakettir

Danıştay 3. havalimanı inşaatında o raporu bozdu

3. havalimanı projesi ekolojik bir felaket yaratır

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Northern Forests Defence 3rd Airport Project Report

Meta information

Contributor:Northern Forests Defense
Last update05/02/2019



A group of environmentalists staged a protest, Istanbul 2014

A group of environmentalists staged a protest June 7 against Istanbul’s third airport project, denouncing the destruction of huge forests. AA Photo Source:

View on the airport