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Pollution of Ergene River and Basin, Turkey


The water sources that feed Ergene River and the agricultural lands that are irrigated with this water are being threatened by industrial and domestic wastes originating from regional factories, the quarries established in Istranca Mountains, unregulated industrialization and unplanned urbanization of the region. As a result, Thraces centuries old agrarian structure is coming to an end and the pollution in Ergene River is jeopardising the habitat of all living creatures. The inhabitants of the region are faced with severe costs every single day.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Pollution of Ergene River and Basin, Turkey
State or province:Edirne, Krklareli, Tekirda
Location of conflict:Thrace
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Water access rights and entitlements
Specific commodities:Chemical products
Live Animals
Sand, gravel

Project Details and Actors

Project details

There are about 2500 leather and textile factories in the Cerkezkoy, Corlu, Muratli and Luleburgaz quad, most of which being officially unlicenced.

Project area:20000
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:10000000
Start of the conflict:1990
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Development, State Hydraulic Works, Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs, Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation, all universities in Thrace
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Ergene Platform (consisting of 90 local and national NGOs), The Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats (TEMA in Turkish acronym) (court case in progress), bar associations, professional chambers

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Villagers Trade Chambers
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Global warming
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Infectious diseases, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsdifficulties in access to water


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Application of existing regulations
Institutional changes
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Development of alternatives:Proposed measures by Ergene Platform:
-Transition to agricultural industry
-Termination of unlicenced and also non-expedient factories
-Clustering of dispersed factories into industrial zones
-Inspection and restriction of use of water by the factories
-Establishment and operation of waste treatment plants within industrial facilities and municipalities
-Execution of punitive sanctions to the polluters
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Ergene Basin 1/100.000 Scale Environmental Plan is the first environmental plan in Turkey approved in 2004. Therefore, to have succeeded in terms of environmental justice, this plan should have been implemented. Whereas, according to the Thrace Sub-region Ergene River Basin Environmental Revision Plan prepared by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality in 2009, Thrace is meant to be treated as Istanbuls backyard.
On the other hand, the Ergene River Basin Conservation Action Plan suggested by the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs in 2011 seems to have no aim but to pacify regional environmental organizations in light of these current facts.
At the same time, the projects that continue despite laws and regulations, rulings and even court decisions is proof enough for the case.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Article No. 56 of the Turkish Constitution

Environmental Law No. 2872

Thrace Sub-region Ergene River Basin Environmental Revision Plan approved in 24.08.2009

Article No. 17/1 of the Turkish Constitution

Ergene River Basin 1/100.000 Scale Environmental Plan approved by the former Minister of Environment and Forestry, Osman Pepe in 13.07.2004

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Hakan Dedeoglu several articles and statements published in newspapers and magazines

Prof. Dr. Osman Inci Book

UN Joint Program MDG-F 2067 Harnessing Sustainable Linkages for

SMEs in Turkeys Textile Sector (2012)

Research Ass. Cagdas Dedeoglu The Environment-Safety Relationship in Turkey based on Ergene River Basin Case Analysis

Prof. Dr. Faruk Yorulmaz Cancer Research

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Municipality of Vize:

Ergene Platform

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

CNNTurk News:

NTV News:

Facebook account of the Ergene Platform:

CNNTurk News:

Meta information

Contributor:Hakan Dedeoglu
Last update08/04/2014