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Cablegate: Air Pollution in Turkey: You Can't Manage What You

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O.12958: N/A

REF: 02 ANKARA 8870

1. (SBU) Summary. Turkey's air pollution monitoring
infrastructure is inconsistent and largely unreliable,
making it nearly impossible to assess the level of Turkey's
air quality and its effects on health. Reliance on fossil
fuels for industrial activity, domestic heating, and vehicle
travel are the primary source of air pollution. Officials
involved are aware of the inadequacy of the system and the
GOT has taken modest steps to improve air quality. However,
overall air pollution remains a major issue. End Summary.

Primary Sources of Pollution
2. (U) The primary sources of Turkey's air pollution are
emissions from industrial activity, domestic heating and
vehicle traffic, which rely largely on lignite (coal),
petroleum, and wood. Urbanization issues, such as poorly
planned industrialization, unregulated squatter communities
and insufficient green space, exacerbate air pollution in
populated areas, Istanbul and Ankara in particular. Air
pollution, which peaked in those cities in the 1980s and
1990s, is now a growing issue in mid-size cities, such as
Kutahya and Afyon, which endured the highest concentrations
of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter (PM) among
mid-sized cities in the 1990s.

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3. (U) Turkey's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per capita
are the lowest in the OECD. Conversely, Turkey exceeds OECD
SO2 averages by 300 percent. Turkey's 1999 National
Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) projects that all
parameters in Turkey will increase between 1985 and 2010.
They project that PM will rise from 960,000 to 1.9 million
tons; SO2 from one million to 3.5 million tons; and nitrogen
dioxide (NO2) from 357 to 1.2 million.

4. (U) By all accounts, the power industry is Turkey's most
polluting, producing 40 percent of national emissions.
Other polluting industries are fertilizer, iron and steel,
paper and cellulose, sugar, cement, textile, petrochemical,
pesticide, and leather. Of 3,500 industrial facilities, MOE
estimates that only half have emission permits. Only a
fraction of them (6.3 percent in 2001) have pollution
prevention equipment. With continuing economic growth
expected, industrial emissions will soon replace households
as the leading source of PM. The transportation and
electronic sectors, which are growing quicker than GDP and
rely on lignite, will increase NO2 emissions.

Attempts at Legislation
5. (U) After decades of increasingly noticeable urban air
pollution, Turkey passed its 1986 Air Quality Protection
Regulation, modeled on German regulations and designed to
control emissions, protect human health and prevent negative
affects of pollution. While Germany has subsequently thrice
strengthened its regulations, Turkey has not and the
regulations reflect standards comparable to less
environmentally committed countries. Turkey's regulations
allow a higher level of air pollutants than recommended by
WHO, sometimes by more than twice as much.

6. (U) The Ministry of Health (MOH), supported by the
Ministry of Environment (MOE), is responsible for air
quality. The MOH issues emission permits based on MOE
recommendations and regulations. Together with provincial
or greater municipality authorities, these ministries are
empowered to close down facilities that exceed regulations.
The Environment law and Municipality law conflict and
authorize several government agencies to levy fines,
underscoring the lack of cross agency coordination. New air
pollution regulations that will parallel EU regulations in
spirit, but not in parameter levels, are under discussion.

7. (U) Turkish regulations call for the measurement of 18
ambient air quality parameters but Turkey measures only two
-- SO2 and PM. These two are insufficient to gauge
potential affects on human health. The EU requires its
member states to monitor between 17 and 25 parameters.

Pollution-Busting Programs
8. (U) In the 1990s, spikes in Istanbul air quality were
considered hazardous and Ankara's air was not much better.
In response, Turkey began a series of actions:

-- Banning lignite. In 1991, both cities banned the use of
domestic lignite and urged the use of cleaner burning but
more expensive imported coal. Officials confiscated millions
of tons of illegal coal, and SO2 and PM levels fell. The
MOE today says that Ankara's air quality is "okay" except
for temperature inversions when pollution spikes. But SO2
levels remain high, as the ban was lifted and Turkey's
continuing economic crises force many homes to rely on lower
cost, less efficient lignite. Ankara exceeded WHO air
standards for SO2 and PM during 11 days in 2001 and 38 days
in 2002.

-- Converting to natural gas. Also during the 1990s, the
GOT and municipalities constructed natural gas
infrastructure for big cities and encouraged households to
switch from domestic coal to natural gas heating. Even
though natural gas consumption is expected to rise from 15
billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2000 to 82 bcm by 2020, many
homes have not converted. As a variety of factors drive
natural gas prices up, residents once using natural gas
retrieve their old coal-burning stoves and buy illegal, low
cost lignite.

-- Introducing unleaded gasoline. The nation's eight million
vehicles contribute only 10 percent to national emissions
but are a large part of urban pollution. Of three million
tons of gasoline sold in Turkey, about half are unleaded.
Improved availability of unleaded gasoline has decreased
emissions, but inconsistently applied pricing controls
create little incentive to purchase unleaded over leaded
gasoline. The MOE attributes the success of the unleaded
gas/ catalytic converter program to support from the
automobile and gasoline industries. Begun in 1992, Turkey's
nationwide annual motor vehicle inspections program checks
for a number of parameters (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide,
hydrocarbons) and issue fines based on regulations issued by
MOE and the Turkish Institute of Standards. The program has
yet to enjoy its full potential as many vehicles do not

-- Monitoring the polluting industries. While Turkey
derives about 50 percent of its energy from clean, renewable
hydropower, the country's thermal power plants are extremely
polluting. The ministries of Health and Environment are
unable to apply national standards to those plants operated
by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources. Efforts to
reduce those plants' high sulfur emissions that routinely
exceed limits have proven unsuccessful, according to
pollution consultants. In 1999, for example, the government
re-opened three state owned thermal plants that had been
closed due to excessive emission levels -- without any
technological changes. A plant in Yatagan has been closed
and re-opened 51 times for emission infractions, but
continues to operate with insufficient, out-of-date
technology. The reason cited for each re-opening is an
energy crisis. Even though several companies have pending
transfer-of-operating rights contracts which, if
implemented, would improve plants' environmental record, the
GOT has failed to move forward on these contracts.

Data Collection
9. (U) To meet Turkey's air quality monitoring requirements,
the MOH regularly collects data from 196 monitoring stations
positioned around the country. Big cities and provinces
often purchase their own systems (Istanbul purchased 250
units for about $2.5 million in 1990), but the MOH does not
calculate municipally collected data in national statistics.

10. (SBU) Air quality professionals complain loudly about
Turkey's monitoring systems. Obsolete equipment is
inappropriately located, rarely properly calibrated,
insufficient in quantity, and not designed for decision-
making, they say. No capability exists to forecast air
pollution spikes or to match pollution with the source. Data
are inconsistent, frequently manipulated and basically
unreliable. Data come from a "non-integrated, non-
documented, non-network" but become official when published
in State Institute of Statistics' monthly bulletins on air
quality. The professionals lament that with no valid data
confirming the extent of Turkey's pollution problems, the
government will ignore the issue: no data, no problem. Even
former Istanbul Mayor and current AK Party chairman Erdogan
did not raise air pollution in last year's election
Next Steps for Turkey
11. (SBU) The results of Turkey's actions have been mixed.
EU, OECD and others including the MOE and consultants find
that Turkey has achieved little progress in air quality in
recent years. Most equate the lack of progress with lack of
resources. Nor has Turkey responded to the frank
recommendations of its own NEAP, or to assessments from
international and local consultants. As one consultant said,
"there are many air quality needs, but no demand; other
priorities win out over the environment."

U.S. Companies Lose Out
12. (U) Although the U.S. has technological air quality
expertise, French companies dominate the air pollution
monitoring equipment market in Turkey with 90 percent market
share. An equipment sales representative for a dozen
companies including two U.S. companies attributed this
dominance to EU-content requirements for EU funded grants.

International Agreements
13. (U) Turkey is a signatory to two international air
quality conventions: Stratospheric Ozone Layer Protection
and the Long Range Transboundary Pollution Convention.
Turkey has not signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate
Change and is unlikely to sign the Kyoto Protocol as quickly
as projected.

15. (SBU) As we have seen with other environmental issues,
political will and managerial tools to address air quality
are lacking in equal measure. With economic activity and
related air pollution projected to increase and
harmonization with EU requirements a top priority, pressure
will mount for Turkey to step up anti-pollution measures and
improve its air quality monitoring system. "You can't
manage what you can't measure" will no longer apply.


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