The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU Working Paper - No. 122

Squatters, Bureaucrats, and Politicians


23 July 2003

Author: Farida Shaikh

Publication Date: 2003

After World War II, large numbers of Turkey’s rural dwellers migrated to the cities in search of employment. Industrialisation, and the progressive liberalisation of the economy has, to date, continued to draw large numbers of migrants to the big cities. Istanbul is the largest metropolitan centre of Turkey and accounts for 20 percent of the total urban population. The municipal authorities have been unable to cope with the demand of these mostly poor migrants, for land, housing and services, and the migrants have responded by invading empty tracts of state land and illegally erecting homes.

Around 60 percent of Istanbul’s population live in these illegal dwellings known as gecekondu. These settlements continue to grow and have expanded into environmentally sensitive areas. One such area is the watershed catchment of Ömerli reservoir located about 30km from central Istanbul. T

he population living within Istanbul’s metropolitan water reservoir areas increased from 190,000 in 1985 to 466,600 in 1990 – a rate much faster than the city average (Uysal, quoted in Yonder, 1999). Substantial numbers of small industries, some up-market housing developments, and mainly informal settlements have all proliferated around Ömerli, and have resulted in deforestation, and pollution of the city’s freshwater supply. 

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