Southeastern Anatolia Project

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A massive integrated regional development scheme for the Euphrates and Tigris river basins in Turkey (in Turkish, Güney Anadolu Projesi, or GAP).

The project area covers about 27,000 square miles (70,000 sq. km) in six provinces of the Anatolia region of Turkey, lying between the Anti-Taurus mountains and the border with Syria: Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Mardin, Sanliurfa, and Siirt. The project is designed to create economic, social, and spatial changes through the construction and integration of dams, hydroelectric power plants, and irrigation projects, and infrastructural improvements in transportation, health, education, and nonagricultural employment opportunities. Estimated completion is in 2013.

GAP is composed of thirteen subprojects, of which seven are on the Euphrates and six on the Tigris. These comprise fifteen dams, fourteen hydroelectric power stations, and nineteen irrigation projects. The completed project will also incorporate the already completed Keban Dam and will vastly increase the extent of irrigated land in what has been the most economically depressed region of Turkey. As of the early 1990s, only some 315,000 acres (about 127,000 ha) were irrigated in this regionor about 4 percent of the total irrigated land in Turkey. Upon completion, almost 5 million acres (some 2 million ha) will be irrigated. The project will also double Turkey's electrical output by generating 22 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year.

The World Bank refused to provide project loans until an agreement had been reached with Syria and Iraq on sharing the water of the two rivers. Because foreign currency has been in great shortage in Turkey, international contractors who had been awarded contracts were replaced by Turkish firms. Since Turkish firms have proven themselves capable of completing the project, international financial circles have been persuaded to make loans. In 1985, the Export-Import Bank of New York and Manufacturers-Hanover Trust lent Turkey 111 million U.S. dollars for the Atatürk Dam, and European banks are providing another 440 million dollars for equipment purchases.

GAP has caused friction with Turkey's neighbors. The Euphrates and Tigris rivers are important sources of water for both Syria and Iraq, and the governments of both countries have expressed reservations about the project. The official Turkish position is that year-long regulation of the flow of the rivers will increase the amount of water available to Syria and Iraq. In July 1984, Turkey and Iraq signed a protocol guaranteeing a minimum flow of 654 cubic yards (500 cu. m) per second, which did not include Syria. In July 1987, a similar agreement was signed with Syria, and further negotiations were held in March 1991. The agreements have not ended the political tensions created by GAP: Turkish forces stood guard in January of 1990 when the Euphrates river was cut to divert water into the reservoir for the Atatürk Dam, which reduced the flow of water into Syria and Iraq by 75 percent.

A number of problems have delayed completion of the project. Because the dam sites are located in remote mountainous areas, roads, worker accommodations, and other infrastructure services must be provided. There are also shortages of skilled labor and engineers. Finally, the reservoirs created by the two Karakaya and Atatürk dams alone will force the relocation of an estimated seventy thousand people, with more relocations to come in the future.

see also water.


Kolars, John R., and Mitchell, William A. The Euphrates River and the Southeast Anatolia Development Project. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991.

Pitman, Paul M., III. Turkey: A Country Study, 4th edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1988.

david waldner

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Southeastern Anatolia Project

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Southeastern Anatolia Project