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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.

In order to find a solution to the socio-economic problems in Sultan Marshes, a GEF (Global Environmental Facility) project aimed to protect natural resources was started under the leadership of Ministry of Environment in 2000. The objective of the project was to put a model which is based on protection and management of natural resources such as water, marshlands, pastures into practice with the participation of land users and solve the environmental, social and economic problems of Sultan Marshes. However, because of persisting irrigated farming applications, the project has not improved the current situation, and existing socio-economic conflicts were sharpened.

In 2011, Zamanti Tunnel was opened and water was given to the Sultan Marshes through a neighbouring basin. Although this looks like a short term solution, the main purpose of opening Zamanti Tunnel is agricultural irrigation and problems such as illegal well drillings, common crop expansion and irrigation systems in the basin, farmers reluctance to use different production methods that reduce water use, governments unwillingness to take more radical steps on the subject show that this temporal improvement will be short-lived.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Sultan Marshes Wetland, Turkey
State or province:Kayseri
Location of conflict:Yesilhisar 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 commodities:Live Animals
Biological resources

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Develi 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:25000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:9,000 (local population, 2003 data)
Start of the conflict:1998
Relevant government actors:The 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 organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Nature Association (Doga Dernegi) (in 2008)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageLATENT (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-economical 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
Other socio-economic impactsLoss of income, difficulties in access to water, loss of cultural heritage, loss of or damage on historical artifacts


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Institutional changes
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Currently the conflict is latent and no groups or local organisations work for environmental justice.

Sources & Materials

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

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

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

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Contributor:Bengi Akbulut
Last update08/04/2014