Cablegate: Wastewater Infrastructure: Recent Improvements

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

B. 02 ANKARA 7205

1. Summary. Turkey's wastewater resources infrastructure
serves its metropolitan populations sufficiently but is
unable to provide adequate sanitation services in rural
areas. Most wastewater is disposed of untreated in bodies
of water. Although the number of wastewater treatment
facilities in Turkey doubled in the 1990s, resources have
been reduced over the past two decades and now severely
limit construction of new facilities. The huge price tag
that comes with infrastructure is likely to make this a
troublesome chapter in Turkey's EU aspirations. End summary.

2. Untreated wastewater is one of the most costly
infrastructure elements necessary to protect human health
from bacteria and viruses, tourist beaches from
contamination, ecosystems from destruction, and fisheries as
productive economic options. Turkey's wastewater treatment
standards are consistent with those of the EU and World Bank
for physical, chemical and biological parameters but outside
of major cities, resources allotted to municipalities to
meet those high standards fall short. The numbers are not

-- Only 17 percent of Turkey's population is served by a
public wastewater treatment system. In the U.S., 71 percent
are served. The OECD average is 59 percent.

-- About 70 percent of wastewater is discharged without
treatment into rivers. About a quarter of municipalities
also rely on unsanitary seepage pits for domestic wastewater

-- Many municipal wastewater treatment plants are not
operational due to high operating costs.


3. The greatest source of wastewater in Turkey is
agriculture, followed by domestic and industrial uses.
Turkey's most severe agricultural nutrient discharge pours
into the Black Sea from the Kizilirmak, Yesilirmak and
Sakarya rivers in Central Anatolia. Agricultural wastewater
is so severe from these rivers that the Global Environmental
Facility (GEF) issued a $12 million grant earlier this year
to improve agricultural practices.

4. Industries produce only one percent of Turkey's
wastewater, according to the State Institute of Statistics
(SIS). However, industrial wastewater is the most toxic,
pouring chemicals such as lead, mercury, chromium, and zinc
into the effluent. Only about ten percent of Turkey's
industrial zones have wastewater treatment facilities.


5. Turkey would need about $4 billion dollars to meet its
sewage infrastructure needs and another $1.5 billion for
wastewater treatment plants, based on Iller Bank numbers.
The Bank of Provinces (Iller Bank), under the Ministry of
Public Works, issues grants and credit for environmental
infrastructure using GOT resources to cover a large portion
of municipal wastewater needs. Municipalities, however, are
responsible for providing infrastructure in their

6. Over the past two decades, economic crises and new
priorities forced the GOT to reduce its financial
contribution to Iller Bank's infrastructure projects. GOT
now covers only six (6) percent of project costs,
dramatically down from 80 percent. Iller's tillers decrease
further as many small municipalities do not re-pay their
loans. The Bank's resources grew so low that at the end of
2002, Iller could not fund tender-ready plans for 270 sewer
systems, wastewater treatment plants and sea-outfalls.
Several greater municipalities found support for their
projects from international sources, but of 2,300 needed
projects, 1,500 remain unfunded.


7. Wastewater infrastructure increased in relevance when
Turkey joined the European Customs Union Agreement in 1995
as it will again during EU accession discussions. Their
high price tags have made the environmental components of
the EU acquis among the most difficult for candidate
countries. As part of Turkey's pre-accession strategy, the
EU has provided funds to identify potential gaps between EU
and Turkish legislation, but those funds do not cover
infrastructure needs.


8. Most wastewater infrastructure is concentrated in
heavily populated areas with evident improvement over the
past decade. SIS estimates that from 1994-98, the
percentage of treated wastewater tripled to nearly 30
percent. The number of wastewater treatment plants doubled
from 41 to 81 and the population served by sewer systems
increased to 60 percent.

9. Major cities have recently invested significantly and
effectively in wastewater infrastructure. Ankara
constructed a $170-million wastewater treatment plant in
1997 and opened new sewer system that serves 98 percent of
its population. A series of projects in Istanbul has ended
direct wastewater discharge into the Golden Horm (Halic) and
visibly cleaned that central body of water. Izmir's self-
funded, comprehensive $80-million "Dream Channel Project"
begun in 1999 has won broad public acclaim for effectively
cleaning up Izmir Gulf. The Mediterranean tourist center of
Antalya treats and discharges all wastewater at-sea and
requires all treatment centers to maintain laboratories for
continual testing of effluent and water supply.

10. Even in the rural Southeast, Diyarbakir, with 30 percent
of the region's population, has received funding from German
banks and will open a new wastewater treatment plant later
this year. However, smaller communities in the region and
throughout rural Turkey do not receive adequate financial
support and are unable to provide sufficient wastewater
infrastructure for their residents.

11. Comment. The need for strengthening wastewater
infrastructure may make Turkey's municipalities and
industrial plants coveted customers of companies selling
pollution control equipment. However, financing will remain
a significant burden until sanitation infrastructure places
higher among many competing priorities.


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