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date: 19 September 2018

Natural Hazards Governance in Turkey

Summary and Keywords

The current outlook in disaster risk management in Turkey is examined in its historic context in this article. Policies, legislation, and specific responsive actions have culminated in 2009 in the formation of a nationwide Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (“Afet ve Acil Durum Yönetimi Başkanlığı” or AFAD in Turkish) that reports directly to the prime minister. Earthquakes are the principal drivers for disaster management in Turkey. The assessment of the system in effect in Turkey from a management science viewpoint is summarized. The chronological description of the Turkish system has been linked to major disaster occurrences and consequent legislative changes.

Keywords: Disaster and Emergency Management Authority of Turkey (AFAD), disaster governance, building code enforcement, quality assurance for buildings, earthquakes, insurance, Natural Disaster Insurance Authority (DASK)


The concept of governance is encyclopedic in scope (Bevir, 2007). It can be defined as the exercise of power or authority by political leaders for the well-being of their country’s citizens or subjects. It is the complex process whereby some sectors of the society wield power and enact and promulgate public policies that directly affect human and institutional interactions and economic and social development, establishing the pattern of how things are done. Where disasters are concerned, the power exercised by the participating sectors of the society is ideally for the common good because it is essential for commanding respect and cooperation from the citizens and the state. As such, a great deal of governance concerns the proper and effective utilization of resources (Tamayao, 2014). Economic prosperity, or the minimization of poverty and unemployment, depends on how the state takes full advantage of the potential of its people by recognizing their vital roles and according respect for human rights.

After a short discussion of governance, the people, and most especially the citizens, will be aware of the need for good governance. Consequently, such awareness should move them to action. For their continued empowerment and sustainable development, they must know how to claim their rights by realizing what to expect from governance. The case study given in this article examines the disaster management framework and its components in Turkey. In the interest of establishing a common understanding of words or phrases that are used in the narrative that follows, a review of the terminology of the subject is given next.

Good governance is identified through a number of indicators or characteristics: (a) embracing participatory principles; (b) rule of law; (c) effectiveness and efficiency; (d) transparency; (e) responsiveness; (f) equitability and inclusiveness; (g) fulfils requirements of consensus orientation; and (h) accountability. All are inextricably related to each other. For instance, without active participation among the various actors in governance, there would be a concomitant lack of responsiveness. Likewise, if decision-making were not transparent, then inevitably there would be no participation or accountability, and decisions will not be consensus-oriented. These indicators, however, should be understood in the context of good democratic governance.

Governance is traditionally associated with government; these two concepts are often used interchangeably. Political scientists have broadened the meaning of governance to include actors not just in government, but also in civil society. It includes three sectors: the public sector, including state actors and institutions; the private sector, such as households and companies; and the civil society, including nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). These three sectors are said to work hand in hand in the process of governance. This new use of the term focuses on the role of networks in the achievement of the common good, whether these networks are intergovernmental, transnational, or international. Governance is thus broader than government because other sectors are included in it.

Local Government in Turkey

A discussion of local governance in Turkey is necessary because it defines the background in which disaster management operates. From 1922 until 1963, most municipal assemblies were elected by popular vote, and these assemblies then elected one of their members as the mayor. (Two exceptions were Ankara and Istanbul where mayors were directly appointed by the government.) Separate votes for the mayor and the municipal assemblies were cast from 1963 on. In 1984, the currently effective Law for the Election of Local Governments was passed, setting the interval of local elections at a maximum of five years.

Control over the enforcement of building codes in privately owned buildings is exercised within municipal bounds. There are at present some 1,300 municipalities in Turkey, including metropolitan ones. Municipal engineers theoretically have powers to enforce compliance with regulations. Building plans are submitted to the municipal authorities with the signature of a design engineer who is responsible for code compliance. In practice, municipal engineers are unable to check thoroughly all the design calculations because of their heavy workload and their professional know-how. This has always been identified as one of the core reasons for failure of code enforcement (Gülkan, 2000).

Law No. 3030, dealing with the creation of metropolitan municipalities, was passed in 1984. The purpose of the law was to enable better services through smaller, sub-provincial municipalities, with the metropolitan municipality acting as a general coordinating authority. The decentralization of municipal services was a step in the right direction, but this law did not solve the financial difficulties of the constituent municipalities by itself. Furthermore, aggravated situations arose when political differences between the metropolitan and subprovincial municipalities emerged. The law empowered metropolitan municipalities to establish the master plans for the urban agglomeration, while the attached municipalities prepared the implementation plans. Revisions in 2014 enabled the metropolitan municipalities to subsume all district municipalities in the province. In 2018, there were 30 metropolitan municipalities in the country (Fig. 1).

Natural Hazards Governance in TurkeyClick to view larger

Figure 1. Metropolitan municipalities in Turkey (shown in red).

Law No. 1580, dating from 1930 and in force until 2005, when it was replaced by Law No. 5393, required municipalities to issue permits for new building construction projects, as well as those for major modifications or repairs. Penalty clauses concerning unpermitted construction were vague, and reference was made to the prevailing Development Law in this regard. Public Health Law No. 1593 also dates from 1930. Articles 250–257 of this law require municipalities to stop the construction of buildings with no permits and to have the Ministry of Health approve the occupancy of public buildings. In private buildings, it is incumbent upon the municipality to verify that no conditions compromising the health or safety of the occupants exist before occupancy permits are issued.

Two new important pieces of legislation came into power in the 1980s: the Environment Law and the Coastal Law. Both were essentially entrusted to the local governments for enforcement, as the Development Law had been. These two laws are of interest in this discussion on account of the impact that they have on managing floods and storms. The widespread degeneration of the environment, as well as the poor management of the coastal zones caused by the endemic weakness of local authorities in pursuing their mandates, will be excluded from this discussion. There can be no return to a centrally dictated form of planning for either urban settlements or environmental or coastal issues. In view of the deficiencies of municipalities in ensuring satisfactory performance in controlling these areas so vital for modern societies, the country must opt for a policy that will increase local capacities through training and civic awareness.

Hazard Profile of Turkey

Earthquake Hazard as the Driver of Disaster Management

Turkey straddles a seismically hazardous part of the world and is among the countries that have been affected many times by the destructive effects of major earthquakes. During the 110-year period from 1900–2010, more than 9,000 events have occurred with magnitude larger than 4. The number of seismic events that have produced destructive effects during the same period is smaller, of course, but they still count in the hundreds. The mitigation of the risk posed by the seismic hazard has been the focus of governmental policies during about the last half-century. The purpose of this article is to outline what the government of Turkey and its relevant agencies have undertaken to manage the risk, exercising the powers and duties accorded to them by the legislative structure. Other types of hazards, including hydro-meteorological ones, have been of secondary importance during the last century because three-quarters of the physical losses and a greater share of the human losses have been caused by earthquakes. This has created a disaster risk management system that is increasingly skewed toward the containment of seismic perils (see Fig. 2).

Natural Hazards Governance in TurkeyClick to view larger

Figure 2. Nationally reported losses in Turkey, 1990–2014 (PreventionWeb, 2014).

In the interest of drawing a scale for disasters in Turkey, and stressing earthquakes, the tectonic features that prevail in the country need to be described. The risk is proportional to the vulnerability of the assets that are exposed to the hazard, and the vulnerability of the built environment in Turkey is confirmed by the fact that nearly three-fourths of all building damages are caused by earthquakes. Mitigation is part of risk management. Enhancement of the resistance of components of the built environment is a matter of having a systemic organization that ensures that codes and standards are both current and rigorously enforced. In this discussion, the attention will focus on endemic problems in that domain. A disaster risk reduction (DRR) system is broader than the immediate set of measures that are emplaced following the occurrence of a disaster. These include longer-term efforts to (a) reconstruct and restore the disaster-stricken area (e.g., through repairing or replacing homes, businesses, public works, and other structures); (b) deal with the disruption that the disaster has caused in community life and meet the recovery-related needs of victims, and (c) mitigate future risks. The major challenge lies in the last item.

This is not to say that earthquakes are the only form of disaster in the country. Drawing from the data collected by Provention (PreventionWeb, 2014), a more representative picture can be drawn for the range of disaster types in Figure 3. The occurrence frequency of the most prevalent types (including earthquake, extreme temperature, flood, landslide, storm, and wildfire) form a pattern that is not at first particularly slanted toward earthquakes. Figures 2 and 3 confirm that mortality (94%), annualized losses (88%), and economic issues (92%) caused by earthquakes outweigh all the others by a large margin. The disaster time line for Turkey listed in the Appendix contains all events that have played a role in shaping the country’s disaster policies over the last five centuries, but those stages have larger steps stimulated by earthquakes.

Natural Hazards Governance in TurkeyClick to view larger

Figure 3. Frequency of disaster types in Turkey, 1990–2014 (PreventionWeb, 2014).

In most regions of Turkey, the seismicity is relatively well documented, and major faults are accurately defined. The principal tectonic feature is the North Anatolian Fault (NAF) zone, a 1,200-km-long, seismically very active, right-lateral strike-slip fault that accommodates the relative motion between the Anatolian and Eurasian plates. The NAF zone extends from the Karlıova triple junction in eastern Turkey to mainland Greece in the west. At the western end of the NAF is the Marmara Region, where the NAF branches into a series of subparallel fault systems dominated by strike-slip or normal movement. The Aegean Region is one of the most rapidly moving and seismically active parts of the Alpine-Himalayan mountain belt, and its tectonics are dominated by extensional and strike-slip motions along the NAF zone and subduction at the Hellenic Trench. In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, the triple junction shaped by the Arabian, African, and Anatolian plates form a large, deformational region. The tectonics of the Eastern Anatolian region is mainly characterized by the North and East Anatolian Faults, and the Central Anatolian region are characterized by some intraplate faults, taking up the internal deformation of the Anatolian Plate.

The fault model for Turkey is based on neotectonic data obtained from many sources, the most comprehensive of which is the 2011 active faults map for the country developed by the General Directorate for Minerals Research and Exploration. In the interest of addressing the likely readers of this article, the earth science minutiae about seismic sources will be omitted here, with only a stress on how they have dictated the hazard. The source zones defined on the basis of the identified active faults in the country, used in combination with the catalog of earthquakes that have occurred in the country, had led to the seismic zones map that will remain in effect until January 1, 2019 (Fig. 4). Zone 1 (shown in red) includes the highest hazard. This map for zones will be superseded with a digitally elaborated map that lists expected ground motion parameters for different return periods, taking into account the fault proximity of sites. In terms of hazard zones, the updated map (accessible at is not much different from Figure 4 because the seismic demand for settlements falling in the former red zones is once again highest.

Natural Hazards Governance in TurkeyClick to view larger

Figure 4. Earthquake zones map, in effect until March 2018.

There have been more than 50 major earthquakes in Turkey between 1900 and 2000, which have killed a total of over 87,000 people, injured another 174,000, and destroyed over 500,000 buildings. Additional natural hazards arise from floods and landslides, but the number of fatalities they cause is much smaller, so the popular concept of disaster is inextricably tied to earthquakes. Table 1 gives a succinct summary of such events that have occurred since the 1990s.

Table 1. Major Natural Disasters in Turkey During the 1990s


Type of Event



Affected Persons

Housing Units

19:18 March 13, 1992

Earthquake M6.8




17:57 October 1995

Earthquake M6.1





May 1998

Floods, landslides

Western Black Sea


2.2 million

16:55 June 1998

Earthquake M6.3

Adana province



03:02 August 17, 1999



Marmara region




November 12, 1999


M 7.2





(1) Casualty and housing damage figures cited in the text vary for both the August and November 1999 earthquakes.

In the 21st century, severe regional earthquakes have struck Bingöl (2003), Elazığ (2010), and Van (2011).

Features of Disaster Management in Turkey Prior to 1999

The disaster management system of Turkey was (and, notwithstanding rhetoric to the contrary, remains) highly centralized and hierarchical, and it is executed according to a global law supported by a wide array of regulations. The provisions are almost entirely related to disaster response, and the underlying assumption is that other legal or administrative instruments are adequate for mitigation and social preparedness. Responsibility for disaster management goes from bottom to top, from district to province, and then to the national level depending on the scale of the particular event. This pattern reflects the deeply ingrained statist tradition of governance and has been proven to have a persistent mindset. Small-scale disasters can be handled first at the district level. The central district of a province is also a district, but it is administered by the governor of that city. If the disaster overwhelms the capacity of this level, the provincial governor, who heads the Provincial Rescue and Relief Assistance Committee, known as the Crisis Committee, was involved in the response and recovery activities. If a major event that required central government intervention occurred, then the Central Coordinating Committee for Disaster, comprised of undersecretaries or high-level representatives from various ministries, was expected to coordinate the response efforts for the disaster. These measures were installed in codified form in 1959, long before large-scale urbanization and industrialization took hold.

In the interest of facilitating an understanding of the policy changes in response to specific events, a broad perspective covering the period between 1509 and 2013 is provided in the appendix. The increments contained in that list are too numerous to merit individual examination, but understanding their flow is necessary in order to appreciate the current stage of disaster management governance.

According to Disaster Law No. 7269, the Central Coordinating Committee for Disaster had been the main body identified in the governmental structure of Turkey’s disaster management system until 2009. This committee consisted of the undersecretaries of the affiliated ministries, including a representative from the Turkish General Staff and the president of the Red Crescent Society. In addition to the committee mentioned here, if the prime minister decided that the size of disaster needed more comprehensive management, a Crisis Management situation would be declared. In this case, a crisis center was established in the office of the prime minister. During times of crisis, each agency also set up its own crisis center in its headquarters. A regional crisis center might have been ordered in addition, if that were deemed necessary. This usually set the stage for the emergence of competing agencies in terms of primacy for overall control and coordination.

The General Directorate of Disaster Affairs (GDDA) had existed since the inception of the principal law in 1959. A short-lived agency called the Turkish Emergency Management General Directorate (abbreviated first to TEMAD and then to TAY, “Türkiye Afet Yönetimi Başkanlığı” (Turkish Emergency Management Administration) was created in 1999 in response to a suggestion from the World Bank that a good deal of fragmentation existed for mitigation, especially at the local level. The justification for TAY’s creation was expressed in forceful language when its decree was passed by the government, but that did not lend its executive reach much power because of the existence of older, better-established authorities charged with the same mandate. With overlapping areas of responsibility with GDDA, TAY served as a redundant latecomer that was disregarded by the establishment.

The cardinal rule for making a single agency responsible for a given authoritative command for effective management of governmental responsibility in a disaster had been overlooked when TAY was created because GDDA, the existing ministerial-level body, had been left intact. A third agency with the more limited role of search-and-rescue was the General Directorate of Civil Defense (GDCD), housed within the Ministry of the Interior, which played a purely post-event role in disaster governance in Turkey. In addition to its responsibilities for the search-and-rescue of disaster victims, GDCD trained citizens in emergency medical care and was in contact with goodwill groups and NGOs for improving their disaster response skills. Law No. 4602, passed in 2009, incorporated GDCD into an agency called the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (called AFAD for short). It was several years before AFAD began to function as the principal disaster management organ for the bureaucratic machinery and developed its own policy instruments.

The organizational structure for disaster management at the provincial level was under the authorization of the governor of that province. Each governorship established a Provincial Rescue and Aid Committee, with nine service groups to implement effective response and recovery efforts. Districts, with a similar legal framework as subprovinces, established the same structure for their own disaster management activities. Their responsibilities consisted of the preparation and implementation of disaster response plans and the conducting of training and drill activities. They were expected to carry out their activities using their own financial resources. Indirectly, municipalities and governorships had the following important theoretical responsibilities for mitigation activities:

  • Implementation of earthquake-resistant design regulations and other standards and regulations related to urban development law

  • Land-use planning

  • Issuance and supervision of building construction permits

  • Coordination of postdisaster search and rescue work

  • Formulation of immediate postevent measures

Watershed Events

The housing stock and infrastructure in the northwestern part of Turkey underwent a completely unplanned, severe, and large-scale dynamic structural test on August 17, 1999. A magnitude-7.4 earthquake centered within the province of Kocaeli violently shook an area the size of Switzerland, causing in contiguous provinces the most widespread destruction of the urban built environment in the history of the country. A similar level of pernicious effects occurred again about three months later, on November 12, when a magnitude-7.2 earthquake centered near Düzce (200 km east of Istanbul), which was less destructive in terms of its seismological features than its predecessor, exacted an excruciating toll on the province of Bolu. This time, the affected area was smaller, so the scenario, though similar, was played out on a limited scale.

The combined impact of these earthquakes proved to be overwhelming for Turkey, as it probably would have been for almost any other country. It was estimated that 25,000 buildings, many with multi-dwelling units, collapsed or were so badly damaged that they required subsequent demolishment. Officially acknowledged mortality (nearly 21,000) and injury (more than 50,000) numbers caused countrywide horror (see Table 1 and the Appendix). With as many as 600,000 people left homeless, it fell to the government of Turkey to provide acceptable temporary shelter for them before winter arrived. This was achieved in a variety of ways. First, empty land in and around the affected areas was used to erect 45,000 small, container-type emergency homes, and tent cities were assembled in areas surrounding the damaged settlements. Standing public buildings such as schools were turned into temporary shelters. Summer recreation camps belonging to institutional owners were made available on an as-requested basis. The strongly family-oriented traditions of the Turkish society made it possible for many families to seek shelter with their relatives or friends. Those who chose not to live in a prefab or tent community or live with family or friends were given a monthly allowance of the equivalent of $175 for a year so that they could rent homes for themselves.

Turkish law then in effect concerning assistance and relief for natural disaster victims (the much-amended Law No. 7269) required the government to provide homes to all families that had lost theirs. Rebuilding settlements for the purpose of rehousing hundreds of thousands of persons required a tremendous organizational effort involving many national agencies, international finance agencies, and contractors and consultants. The state of national shock that existed in the country gradually gave way to a sober assessment of what had gone wrong and why (Youd et al., 2000). A corollary of the inquisition that took shape was the acknowledged need to formulate policies, including the creation of new governance instruments, so that the country would escape the ineluctable next major disaster with less dire consequences.

In the past, while Turkey may have had success in rebuilding settlements reduced to rubble by natural disasters, it has been less skillful in designing and enforcing permanent mitigation policies to spare itself the replay of similar experiences in the future. A principal objective in the following section is to describe the new administrative and financial mechanisms that were created in the post-1999 period to lessen the impact of future disasters.

The Post-1999 Period

The enormity of the losses from the August 17, 1999, earthquake centered near İzmit forced the government of Turkey to send immediately to the Grand National Assembly a bill that enabled it to pass whatever legal instrument as was judged necessary, through an instrument known as a “Governmental Decree with the Force of Law.” This bill became Law No. 4452 on August 27, 1999. It enabled the government to issue decrees quickly, with the constitutional requirement that within no more than six months, proper parliamentary procedures should be enacted to make them law. Given the strongly centralized character of the civil administration in Turkey, the Ministry of Public Works and Settlement had been accorded prime responsibility for implementation of these measures. The spate of parliamentary actions during 1999–2001 toward addressing the immediate needs of disaster victims and searching feasible instruments for mitigation thus consisted of a rapid succession of decrees passed by the executive branch then in power. They are described next in their essence, with corresponding entries in the Appendix.

Compulsory Earthquake Insurance (Decree No. 587, December 27, 1999, Transcribed Into Law No. 6305 in 2012)

Through Decree No. 587, all existing and future privately owned property was required to contribute to the Turkish Catastrophe Insurance Pool (TCIP), managed by the Undersecretariat of the Treasury. Non-engineered rural housing and fully commercial buildings were excluded. The intent in this decree was to create a fund for use in disasters so that no one would be left homeless, with a nominal sum, currently capped at TL190,000 (about $40,000) being disbursed immediately to homeowners who are left homeless.

Management of the pool was entrusted to a new entity, the Natural Disasters Insurance Authority (DASK).

The model of the pool management authority was patterned after New Zealand’s Earthquake Commission, and the California Earthquake Authority. However, DASK, which still exists today, is different from either of these public institutions, in that it is governed by a seven-person board whose members are of mixed public and private background. It has no staff of its own and outsources all of its business requirements. The largest private reinsurer in Turkey was retained as the operational manager for the first five years. This responsibility was later assumed by another commercial insurer. Of the 40 nonlife insurance companies in Turkey, 34 initially agreed to sell TCIP policies. DASK currently enjoys a national market penetration of 45%, with some 8 million policies sold. It reinsures all of its own risk in the international market.

DASK has conducted many public education and awareness-raising campaigns to turn itself into a household name. Registration of property sales at government deeds offices requires submission of proof of continuous DASK coverage for sale or succession, and local governments will not provide utility connections for new homes unless owners submit evidence that the property is covered.

An important feature of the law was its theoretical denial of state assistance to homeowners who have not purchased insurance. This element has been circumvented in a number of recent earthquakes in favor of evaders who represent electoral power in a democratic system.

Building Construction Supervision (Decree No. 595, April 10, 2000)

The poor performance of the building stock in the 1999 earthquake had an immediate cause. Almost every abjectly collapsed or damaged building presented a textbook example of some poor practice and code violation. In the Turkish legal system, the Council of Ministers enforces laws, whereas individual ministries enforce regulations that originate from them. However, the seismic requirements are really for the municipal governments to enforce when they issue building construction permits, but this fact had been ignored in the wording of the regulation. It is not surprising that enforcement issues of the seismic design regulation have always been contentious between the central and local authorities. This duality has persisted for decades, but steps have been taken to address the legal vacuum.

The Turkish parliament, 10 days after the Kocaeli earthquake occurred on August 17, 1999, accorded extraordinary powers to the Council of Ministers by passing a law that effectively bestowed its own powers of legislation on the council for the purpose of addressing pressing needs during the post-disaster period. One decree, No. 595, carried the title of “Building Construction Supervision.” In it, the outline of an oversight administration was created for all buildings to be constructed in 27 provinces, which naturally included those that had been affected by the Kocaeli and Düzce earthquakes.

The intent of this decree was to ensure that at least nominal quality standards would be abided by henceforth within the building construction continuum in Turkey. Institutional buildings were excluded because both design and construction oversight for these was exercised by engineers in governmental ranks. Professionals who were responsible for a given building were the design engineer, contractor, site engineer, and building supervision firm. Design engineers were required to have the title of “expert engineer,” similar to a professional engineer. In essence, the building supervision firm exercised the duties of the municipal or governorate offices in ensuring both the correctness of the designs and conformance of the actual construction to the design. In each provincial capital and town with a population of more than 50,000, a building supervision oversight commission was to be established under the general coordination of the field office of the Ministry of Public Works and Settlement (MPWS), which since has been dissolved. This hierarchical structure was to be managed by a Building Supervision Higher Council in Ankara, which is embedded in the same ministry. Details of Decree 595 are set out in Table 2.

Table 2. Features of Decree 595 (Later Law 4708) for Building Design and Construction Oversight

Decree 595

Law 4708

Liability insurance mandatory.


Central and provincial-level Building Construction Supervision Commissions created.


Privilege and duty of recognizing qualified “specialist” engineers given to chambers of architects and engineers. Chambers entitled to organize course and supervising technical staff and supervise title-holders.

Chambers of architects and engineers no longer involved. Ministry retains the right to issue certificates for supervisory firms.

In effect in 27 provinces.

Reduced to 19 provinces; expanded to 81 provinces in 2011.

Contractor must be an architect or engineer, and must employ a site engineer.

Professional qualifications of contractor not mentioned.

Fees for supervision and design checks set at 4%–8% of cost of building.

Fees reduced to 3% of estimated building cost.

At least 51% of the capital for building construction supervision firm must belong to architects or engineers as owners.

All firm capital must be prescribed to holders of architect or engineer titles (positive change).

Single-story buildings with less than 180 m2 area waived from checks.

At first, no exceptions; then in 2004, the exception extended to basements, plus two-story buildings with area less than 200 m2.

Supervising firms and their employees needed to carry a no-fault liability insurance for 10 years after completion.

Liability now apportioned among firms, their employees, control lab employees, and contractors in proportion to their “liabilities.” (This apportionment cannot be made in a judicial system that relies on expert witness testimony, with little protection against perjury.) Duration of liability extended to 15 years.

A decree cannot impose penalties.

Penalties of various sorts spelled out for violations of the law.

Interest groups, led by the Chamber of Architects, joined forces in a campaign against Decree 595 once the earthquake dust had settled. The interpretation is that architects felt that they had been excluded from the chain of quality assurance for buildings, their natural domain. Indeed most of the functions of Decree 595 were designed for the structural engineering professionals, much in the same tradition as the German Prüfingenieur system in effect since the 1920s. The insurance sector, which had long been protected by the state, was unsure of what the decree was now asking them to cover in the building liability domain, and it raised premiums to unaffordable heights for the firms that wanted to purchase the policies. Eager to generate business for themselves, there were reports of firms underbidding their legally established fees. Even though the system was in effect in only 27 provinces, the reconstruction and building retrofitting period created a major demand for professional engineers, a title that had not existed until then. The ministry allowed anyone with a diploma of more than 12 years to apply and receive a certificate for that designation, but this drew the opposition of the Chamber of Civil Engineers, which argued that granting these supra-diploma entitlements was its own privilege.

Law No. 4708: Replacement for Decree 595

Turkey’s Constitutional Court rescinded Decree 595 in 2001, barely a year after it had come into effect. The court’s ill-advised decision dealt a severe blow to the long-standing national requirement to foster building quality and disaster resilience in the building stock. Many construction supervision companies that had been established by engineers and architects in the 27 designated provinces found themselves suddenly disenfranchised and on the brink of insolvency (many did not survive commercially). They had to lay off their staff, further raising the unemployment rate in a country where jobs were already at a premium.

Bowing to the political reality, MPWS resolved to craft legislation that would be less controversial than Decree 595 had been. In their effort to save the day and escape possible legal challenge and judicial intervention, the ministry wrote Law No. 4708, which went into effect on July 31, 2001, after adoption in the national parliament. As a further concession to the ill-informed but clamorous opponents of Decree 595, the scope of applicability of Law 4708 was limited to only 19 provinces, so that in the remaining 62 provinces of the country, business continued as usual. This added many risky buildings to the existing stock during the intervening years. The scope of applicability of the law was expanded to the entire country only in 2011.

Law 4708 is a timid successor to Decree 595. A simplified comparison of the two is provided İn Table 2.

The estimated number of detached buildings in Turkey is 15 million. Experience shows that the average earthquake resilience of these buildings is mediocre, caused by a combination of poorly enforced (or nonexistent) code provisions, poor understanding of code requirements, absence of workmanship qualification, ad-hoc material standard enforcement, and absence of legal mechanisms to seek meaningful redress of grievances. While Law 4708 represents a step forward, its improvements in building quality will become visible only after decades, even in the best circumstances. Until then, the enormous risk must be managed by a combination of retrofit programs, incentives, and insurance.

Aware that a more comprehensive set of measures needed to be enacted, MPWS convened an ambitious Earthquake Council in 2004. In the area of enhancing building resilience against earthquakes, the council’s Final Declaration included the following rhetorical recommendations:

  • Development and urban planning legislation should be uncoupled from building construction legislation, such that codes, materials standards, supervision guidelines, and other technical matters should be included in an integrated but separate set of documents.

  • A well-formulated system beyond simple diplomas must be designed for professional qualification. This universal system should be linked to insurance arrangements so that insurers will be cognizant of the professional qualifications of individuals that they cover for liability. Professional societies should be encouraged to urge their members to advance up the ladder of mastery of their trades through continuing education and required periodic examinations to demonstrate their technical competence.

  • Building contractors must be regulated vigorously for technical competence, and this line of business should be ranked as one where lives and property of citizens may be affected negatively through their negligence. Legal revisions for the protection of the citizens must be crafted.

  • A Confederation of Building Construction Supervision firms should be formed for meaningful self-regulation and responsible professional conduct.

A decade later, a few concrete steps have been taken in this direction. Disaster risk reduction cannot be a single piece of legislation that cures all ills, but rather a system that needs to be woven into the societal fabric in a way that will make it invisible, acceptable, and affordably effective. The associated costs should be financed through incentives and other awards, and violations need to be penalized in appropriate ways so that good professional conduct is rewarded. The impression is that much emphasis has been placed on formulating the right legislation, but these efforts have been piecemeal and lacking in effective enforcement and meaningful social espousal.

Following a major overhaul of ministries in 2011, MPWS ceased to exist. Its mandate was largely transferred to the Ministry for the Environment and Urban Affairs.

The National Earthquake Strategy and Action Plan

In 2009, Turkey made a paradigm shift in its disaster management structure. Until 2009, three principal government units—namely, the GDDA under the Ministry of Public Works and Settlement, the General Directorate of Civil Defense under the Ministry of the Interior, and the General Directorate of Emergency Management under the Prime Ministry—merged under Prime Ministry to form a new department called the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), as previously mentioned. AFAD consists of eight departments, each responsible for a different phase of the disaster management cycle. Being under the Prime Ministry, AFAD has an overall coordination role among all stakeholders responsible for disaster management processes in the country. It currently has 81 provincial branches across Turkey, in addition to 11 search-and-rescue units.

Following its establishment, AFAD started filling the gaps in legislative and legal arrangements, a process that can be glacially slow. AFAD also focused on DRR issues, and the primary gap identified in this context was identified as the lack of strategic documents for DRR. The post-1999 legislation mentioned earlier in this article lacked an overall strategic framework. The National Earthquake Strategy and Action Plan of Turkey (UDSEP-2023) and Turkish Disaster Master Plan (TAMP) are national policy instruments combined under the Turkish Disaster Management Strategy Document (TAYSB) and designed to reduce disaster-related losses and achieve an earthquake-resistant and -resilient country by 2023.

The scope of UDSEP-2023 is comprised of activities in the following areas:

  • Earthquake Information Infrastructure Research

  • Earthquake Hazard Analysis and Maps

  • Earthquake Mitigation Plans (Scenario Risk Analysis)

  • Earthquake Safe Settlements and Development

  • Education and Enhancement of Public Awareness

  • Protection of the Historic and Cultural Property from Earthquakes

  • Emergency Management

  • Legislation Development and Financial Arrangements

For each area, working groups were organized, each of which prepared a detailed report. The first thematic group includes strategies and actions mainly related to earth sciences. Improved earthquake monitoring, early warning systems and early damage assessment studies, seismic hazard mapping, and better understanding the physical characteristics of the Earth’s interior are among the expected outcomes by 2023. The second thematic group is focused on achieving earthquake science activities, safe construction, protection of Turkey’s cultural heritage, retrofitting of critical structures, protection of infrastructure, and training of workers and technicians in construction applications. The third thematic group is mainly concerned with public awareness, training, education activities, and resilience of communities. In addition, primary legislative goals are included. The last group’s strategy concentrates on increasing emergency management capacity. The complete document, in English and Turkish, is available at the AFAD website (

In addition, a National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction has been created, which draws on all elements of Turkish society, including stakeholders such as the central government, local governments, NGOs, universities, professional associations, private-sector organizations, and citizens. The platform incorporates the following areas:

  • Developing the concept of public governance and its implementation

  • Conducting public information activities related to the process of integrated disaster management

  • Expanding participation in disaster decision-support systems

  • Developing integrated disaster management systems

Much of AFAD’s resources have been consumed since 2011 in meeting the needs of the nearly 4 million refugees displaced by the war in Syria. The agency has in fact become the sole instrument within the Turkish administration to cope with this humanitarian tragedy.

Urban Transformation and Renovation of Risky Buildings

As the 20th anniversary of the major earthquakes in 1999 approaches, the grim reality has set in that Turkey is burdened with a building stock that has little chance of withstanding major environmental effects such as those caused by future earthquakes. The fragility of the building stock is not attributable to a single cause; it follows many years of poor seismic code enforcement, substandard codes, poor urban planning, a system of entitlements designed to rehouse at public cost people who become homeless on account of some natural disaster, poor engineering services, and poor-quality assurance in the building delivery chain. Public awareness of this fact is not nonexistent, but the cost element of major structural interventions in buildings has created its own apathy, with little action taken by property owners. Even an incremental program for strengthening buildings will be prohibitively expensive. The quality of publicly owned buildings has been addressed by new legislation that reformed procurement guidelines for publicly tendered services, including building of institutional buildings. The Public Procurements Authority now regulates that medium, also serving to arbitrate contract disputes.

The Turkish population is now 80% urban, and most urban settlements take the form of multi-unit apartment buildings, many with five to eight stories. It is not uncommon for some type of business to co-reside with families in the typical apartment building, usually on the ground level. Law No. 634, dating from the 1960s, regulates the joint management of an entire property by the collective assembly of the property owners.

Accepting the basic truth that many of these buildings would be seriously damaged in an earthquake, and the resulting monetary losses would likely outweigh DASK’s capacity for compensation, a single line of action remained open to the executive branch for ensuring the survivability of the existing, substandard, privately owned properties: pass legislation to ensure that the private sector invests in improving the quality of those buildings. This took the form of crafting the Law for Transformation of Areas Under the Disaster Risks (Law No. 6306), usually referred to as the “Urban Renewal Law.” This law entered into force in 2012, and its objective is to determine the procedures and principles regarding the rehabilitation, clearance, and renovation of areas and buildings located in disaster-risk areas in accordance with relevant standards, with a view to creating healthy and safe living environments. The main law is supported by a number of regulations, directives, and circulars. In many applications, the law has become a land-for-new-building-for-owners swap, because its provisions for building replacement are pursued by contractors in Istanbul neighborhoods featuring scarce land and high resale value for new properties.

Thus, in this aspect of its disaster management policy, Turkey has decided not to try to strengthen its existing buildings through budgetary instruments. To do so would impose heavy fiscal obligations on the public sector and possibly lead to unacceptably high investments in property that is beyond rehabilitation. Other considerations support the view that preemptive private property strengthening is not an attractive disaster management policy as well, as described next.

Costs and Benefits of Strengthening

Owners in Turkey are reluctant to opt for retrofitting strategies. If loss of life and other social costs associated with future earthquakes are ignored as being only remotely likely, then building owners seem inclined to consider the expected future losses small in comparison to the hefty immediate costs of retrofitting schemes (AFAD, n.d.). Likewise, if the risk is shifted to insurance, there is no conceivable reduction in insurance premiums that would be sufficient to pay, on its own, for the costs of retrofitting. However, the benefits from such a retrofit program would extend beyond the benefits to the owners, reducing many sources of loss that otherwise would be borne by society at large.

Another relevant factor to consider when explaining people’s reluctance to upgrade the structural quality of their homes is the fact that most housing in Turkey exists for only extremely short periods of time compared with many European countries. Because of the spiraling costs of land in urban centers, building regulators are under constant pressure from property owners to allow the construction of higher buildings. Local governments have offered little resistance to this pressure, with the result being increasing population densities, congested streets, and inadequate urban services. So, in effect, one generation of poor-quality houses follows another in as short an interval as every 30–40 years. Thus, a more comprehensive scheme of incentives is needed, and other sources of external funding support is required. The use of public sources of funding for this purpose could be justified. This is discussed next in the form of rhetorical questions, leading to further recommendations.

A study by Gülkan et al. (2000) estimated the costs and benefits associated with a program of retrofitting in Dinar (a city of some 30,000 in western Turkey that was hit by an M6.1 earthquake in 1995, causing 92 deaths). A total of 35 reinforced concrete (RC) buildings with a combined floor area of 24,200 m2 were strengthened by adding shear walls, with an average cost of US$45/m2. This suggests that if a general program of structural rehabilitation had been carried out before the earthquake, covering all RC and masonry buildings, it would have cost $8 million. In that case, nearly all 92 deaths would have been prevented, at a cost of $90,000 per life saved. If the building construction had been performed to a higher standard in the first place—assuming that strict quality assurance would have added 10% to the initial construction costs—then $4.9 million would have been needed to save those 92 lives, at a cost of $53,000 per life saved—a reduction of about 41%. These calculations do not include any estimate of the probability of a damaging earthquake striking Dinar.

This study stated that the estimated total cost of the Dinar earthquake was $250 million—more than 30 times the structural damage costs—and strengthening would have saved many lives and avoided needless injuries to boot. If these benefits are added, the intervention is more easily justified. The research, however, assumed that a perfectly effective retrofit would have been realized—not an easy target.

Obstacles to and Incentives for Retrofitting

The financial benefit to the building owner (or DASK, as the insurer), on its own, is an insufficient incentive to undertake retrofitting. If a major program or campaign of retrofitting is to be achieved, additional incentives will be needed, which relate to the additional benefits that earthquake loss reduction will bring.

In Turkey, where most retrofitting has taken place in the context of repairing post-earthquake damage, this scheme is now structured as follows: the government pays for the repairs via loans, and the owners agree to pay back the debt over time. The interest is very low—much less than the inflation rate—so the amount to pay is very little, especially over the span of a few years. But the thought of paying back even this relatively small debt is enough to deter some owners from undertaking necessary repairs, choosing instead to live in weakened buildings. It is unclear if the buildings are in fact insured during the payback period. The repair cost and lack of appreciation that their property is at risk are the two principal reasons why most people do not undertake retrofitting. Lack of simple technical guidance and the highly variable designs produced by assumed experts may be other reasons; however, there is no shortage of retrofitting skills. Retrofitting experience has been gained by designers, and also to a certain extent by contractors. In addition, short training courses and seminars on retrofit design issues have been offered by engineering associations and universities. But the skills needed to make a correct structural assessment for a building, and then to suggest ways of addressing any deficiencies, are not widely available.

Since the 1999 Kocaeli and Düzce earthquakes, as well as subsequent press coverage of academic studies indicating heightened risk in the İstanbul region, public awareness of the risk has been at an all-time high. Most people owning and living in mid-rise and high-rise apartment blocks are aware of the poor performance of such buildings in the 1999 earthquakes. But awareness of the opportunities for making these buildings safer through retrofitting, and what this might involve, is not widely understood.

The cost-benefit calculations indicate clearly that reduced risk of future damage to their property is not sufficient to create an economic argument for owners to retrofit. But the benefits of a retrofitting program would extend far beyond the owners—to the occupants of their buildings, to the insurance pool, to public health services, and to society at large. It could save many lives. Thus, there are very strong arguments for allotting public funds to owners who wish to strengthen their buildings. They could be offered a range of incentives that might include the following:

  • Reduced insurance premiums

  • Soft loans from government like the ones now used for postearthquake repairs

  • Direct assistance from DASK funds

  • Property tax relief

  • Easing of planning restrictions

Another possible incentive might be to declare a class of buildings as “hazardous buildings,” and legally require that strengthening be done within a prescribed period of time. Owners then would be free to decide whether to strengthen or demolish their buildings. In addition, there likely is yet another incentive to retrofitting: the increased rents that owners could charge for their tenants for living in strengthened buildings.

Details of how such laws or incentives would be made available would need to be worked out by the Treasury and other affected ministries. They would do this on the basis of detailed economic studies, which would properly take account of all the benefits to society of a major retrofitting program. Thus, to date, premium lands in selected areas have been targeted for urban renewal, but the upgrading of property in less affluent areas and retrofit options for marginally risky buildings have not been adequately pursued.


Turkey’s disaster management governance is exercised through AFAD, which came into existence in 2009 as a result of the consolidation of agencies with mandates to achieve the same objective. Among the duties assigned to AFAD are preparation of disaster and emergency responses, risk management, and creating hazard reduction plans to be applied nationwide. Determining possible disaster and emergency areas and pronouncing preventive measures also lie within the agency’s mandate. The text of the law leaves the impression that AFAD is expected to play the role of a coordinating agency, and it also assigns the execution of mitigation and intervention to the provincial Disaster and Development Bureaus.

Whether these offices are capable of applying and enforcing realistic, risk-compliant building regulations and land-use planning principles is an open issue. No guidance is included on how implicit disaster management measures embedded into proper code enforcement and quality assurance are to be shared among the municipal authority and AFAD offices. Identification of safe land for low-income citizens and the development or upgrading of informal settlements lie outside the reach of the experience and practices of the provincial bureaucracies. What still needs to be addressed is designing the mechanisms to assign a meaningful national budget for DRR and providing incentives for homeowners, low-income families, communities, businesses, and the public sector to invest in reducing the risks they face.

Shocked by the enormous losses caused by the two major earthquakes in 1999 (as well as the Western Black Sea floods in May 1998), and wary of incurring losses of similar magnitude in the future, Turkey took concrete steps to prevent such events from happening again. The implementation of the mandatory earthquake insurance scheme DASK, revisions in the building construction oversight system, and legislation to reduce the number of risky buildings in potentially hazardous areas are among them. New legislative elements have been introduced with the goal of ensuring that municipalities become accountable actors in disaster governance. AFAD has been instrumental in developing strategies and policies that will define national governance of disasters in the post-Hyogo era. Turkey needs to integrate nationwide, regional, and urban development plans so that it becomes feasible to maintain up-to-date data on hazards and vulnerabilities. It also needs to prepare risk assessments to use as the basis for urban development plans and decisions. Legislators may pass bills, but it is up to local governments to ensure that this information and the plans for urban resilience are readily available to the public and fully discussed with them.

DRR is the most important element for achieving secure living areas and enhancing resilience against disasters. UDSEP-2023 provides a national road map to reduce earthquake-related losses by 2023. It gathered previous efforts in earthquake mitigation together into a strategy document and integrated that information with several other policy papers that define the path to achieving stated objectives. Political commitment to that road map has been ensured. Just like many road-map or guiding documents, UDSEP-2023 will be a living document, subject to revisions as new needs and priorities emerge. Although there can be no major changes, limited changes may occur during the implementation period.

Such strategic approaches to DRR measures are important tools for countries to use to manage DRR activities within a given timetable and in a coordinated way. This methodology gives options to funding agencies when prioritizing the funding for specific projects. Using strategic approaches, including time-limited actions with clear responsibility of roles, also prevents the loss of multiple funding of similar studies and motivates responsible organizations to reach expected results within a given schedule.


This article has made extensive use of the AFAD publication National Progress Report on the Implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action (2013–2015). The appendix contains an unpublished compilation from the Middle East Technical University Disaster Management Research Center (METU-DMC) and an Emergency Support Foundation Joint Study carried out in 2014. Documents from the archives of the Prime Ministry, the Ministries of the Interior, Environment and Urban Affairs, and Forestry and Water Resources, and AFAD have been used in the compilation. The author acknowledges the meticulous work by G. Tezgider of the Emergency Support Foundation in putting together diverse sources of information for assembling the appendix.


AFAD. (n.d.). Landing page (in Turkish).

Beca Prota Joint Venture. (2005). Feasibility study for retrofitting of selected residential buildings in Istanbul: Assessment report. Istanbul: Republic of Turkey, Prime Ministry, İstanbul Project Implementation Unit.Find this resource:

Bevir, M. (Ed.). (2007). Encyclopedia of governance. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Find this resource:

Gülkan, P. (2000). Building code enforcement prospects: The failure of public policy. Earthquake Spectra, 16(S1), 351–374.Find this resource:

Gülkan, P., Balamir, M., & Sucuoğlu, H. (2000). An integrated public policy toward natural hazard mitigation: Can urban planning and construction supervision fix economic losses? Paper No. 1808, Twelfth World Conference on Earthquake Engineering, Auckland, New Zealand.Find this resource:

PreventionWeb. (2014). Turkey disaster & risk profile. 5. Accessible at

Tamayao, M. J. M. (2014). What is governance?

Youd, T. L., Bardet, J.-P., & Bray, J. D. (2000). Kocaeli, Turkey, earthquake of August 18, 1999, reconnaissance report. Earthquake Spectra, 16(S1).Find this resource:

Appendix. Timeline for Disaster Risk Reduction Stages in Turkey

Major Natural Disaster

Basic Disaster Legislation

Subsequent Institutionalization

1509 Istanbul earthquake

1556 Istanbul earthquake

1509: Donation of 20 gold coins per household for reconstruction through the edict of Beyazıt II; employment of 50,000-person workforce for rebuilding; prohibition of home construction on loose landfill close to the sea; promotion of timber frame construction.

1653 Eastern Izmir earthquake

1688 Izmir earthquake

1766 Istanbul earthquake

1789 Istanbul floods

1688: Requirement for buildings being erected following earthquakes to have enhanced resistance against earthquakes and to be built on improved foundations.

1848: Regulations for building construction (applied to Istanbul for regulation of urban growth).

1848: Establishment of the Ministry of Public Works (1848–1920).

1855 Bursa earthquake

1859 Erzurum earthquake

1855: Establishment of the municipality of Istanbul.

1863 Istanbul floods

1864: Regulations for roads and buildings.

1864: Announcement of national principles for preparation of maps, exercising eminent domain for private property and roadway widths.

1868: Establishment of the Turkish Red Crescent, initially as an instrument to provide support and assistance to wounded and sick soldiers.

1882: Law on Buildings to regulate infrastructure and roads in urban areas with municipalities.

1894 Istanbul earthquake

1898 Balıkesir earthquake

1903 Malazgirt earthquake

1908 Tokat floods

1912 Mürefte earthquake

1914 Afyon Bolvadin earthquake

1914: Law on the Establishment and Organization of the Ministry of Public Works of the Ottoman State.

1920: Establishment of the Ministry of Public Works by the national government (1920–1928).

1924 Pasinler earthquake

1926 Kars earthquake

1924: Law No. 442 on Rural Settlements.

1923: Establishment of the Ministry for Population Exchange and Resettlement Construction (it was dissolved in 1924).

1928: Regulation for Civil Defense of Rear Combat Line Areas.

1928: Establishment of of the Ministry of Public Works (1928–1983).

1929: Law on Provincial Administrations.

1930 Hakkari earthquake

1930: Law No.1580 for Municipalities.

1930: Law No. 1593 for Public Health.

1930: Municipalities obligated to superintend settlement and construction acivities in their jurisdictions and provide housing for needy citizens.

1933: Law No. 2290 for Municipal Constructions and Roads.

1933: Municipal duties for preparation of development plans, issuing permits, and regulating technical liabilities, construction supervision, and building and road construction.

1934: Law No. 2443 for Organization and Duties of the Ministry of Public Works.

1935 Digor earthquake

1938 Kırşehir earthquake

1938: Law No. 3502 on Passive Air Defense.

1938: Establishment of Mobilization Directorates for Civil Defense in provinces.

1939 Erzincan earthquake

1939: Establishment of Directorate for Construction and Development Affairs.

1940: Law No. 3773 for Assistance to Persons Affected by the Erzincan Earthquake.

1940: Finalization of the principles for postearthquake assistance (tax deferments, compensation for government employees, donation of construction materials).

1941 Van-Erciş earthquake

1942 Niksar-Erbaa earthquake

1943 Adapazarı-Hendek earthquake

1943 Tosya-Ladik earthquake

1941–1943, miscellaneous floods

1943: Law No. 4373 (Protection Against High Water and Floods).

1943: Determination of counterflood protection measures before the occurrence of floods (first-time reduction of risk-loss measures); revision of guidelines on actions during disasters.

1944: Bolu Gerede earthquake

1944: Law No. 4623 (Countermeasures Against Earthquakes Before and After Their Occurrence).

Regulations cited by the Law:

1945: Earthquake zones map for Turkey and regulations for building construction in earthquake zones.

1945: Regulations for Buildings to Be Built in Disaster Areas.

1944: Coordinated regular work for reduction of disaster losses.

1945: Adoption of the Earthquake Hazard Map by the Council of Ministers as macro-zonation tool.

1945: First seismic design regulation goes into effect .

1946 Varto-Hınıs earthquake

1948 Eskişehir floods

1949 Karlıova earthquake

1948: Law No. 5243 (for the reconstruction of Erzincan).

1950: Law No. 5663 (for buildings to be constructed in Eskişehir on account of floods).

1951 Çankırı earthquake

1952 Hasankale earthquake

1953 Yenice-Gönen earthquake

1953: Law No. 6188 for Promotion for Building Engineered Buildings and Measures Against Buildings Without Permits).

1953: Law No. 6200, establishing the State Hydraulic Works (SHW), patterned after the US Bureau of Reclamation.

1953: Creation of a specialized branch within the Directorate for Construction and Development Affairs to deal exclusively with earthquakes.

1955: Inclusion of floods and fires under the mandate of the branch (named as DE-SE-YA). In 1965, this agency was converted into the General Directorate for Disaster Affairs.

1953: Completion of the provincial organization of SHW.

1956: Law No. 6785 on Urban Development.

1957: Ministry of Development starts to function. Consideration of disaster hazards in new settlements, appointment of site engineers at construction sites for supervision.

1957 Abant earthquake

1957 Ankara floods

1958: Law No. 7216 for Civil Defense.

1958: Law No. 7116, which established the Ministry of Resettlement and Reconstruction and defined its organization and duties.

1958: Establishment of the General Directorate for Civil Defense, listing rescue and relief activities during disasters.

1958: Establishment of the Ministry of Resettlement and Reconstruction, outlining pre- and post-DRR countermeasures and regional, urban, and rural plans; standardizing building construction materials (1958–1983).

1959: Parliament passes Law No. 7269 on Measures to Be Put Into Effect and Assistance to Be disbursed Following Disasters Affecting the General Population (Disasters Law).

The Disasters Law has been continually revised from 1960–2014 through other laws and decrees with the power of law. Its scope was broadened to cover all types of natural disasters and concepts of disasters, and potential disasters were placed in a legal context; the duties and powers of central and local governments were systematized; preparedness and reduction measures were emplaced in a legal context; measures for ensuring life and material safety were defined in an integrated fashion prior to disasters; it was clarified who will receive entitlement as disaster victims; rebuilding and permanent reconstruction guidelines were defined; and a Disasters Fund was created outside of the national budget.

1960 Floods

1964 Manyas earthquake

1966 Muş Varto earthquake

1967 Mudurnu earthquake

1967 Pülümür earthquake

1965: Establishment of the GDDA

1968 Amasra-Bartın earthquake

1969 Alaşehir earthquake

1968: Law No. 1051 (amending Law No. 7269).

1968: Regulation for defining entitled disaster-affected persons.

1970 Gediz earthquake 1971 Bingöl earthquake

1971 Burdur earthquake

1975 Lice earthquake 1976 Denizli earthquake

Van Çaldıran earthquake

1977 Palu earthquake

1972: Law No. 1571 (creating the Earthquake Fund).

1972: Law No.1605 (amending Law No. 6785 for development).

1975: Revision of the 1968 Seismic Design Code (first issued in 1945).

1977: Law No. 2090 (Assistance to Farmsteads Affected by Natural Disasters).

1972: Revision of the seismic zones map.

1979: Fourth Five-Year Development Plan (1979–1983) has articles stating that DRR should be made a priority, and that settlement and building construction quality should be assured through third-party supervision.

1983 Erzurum earthquake

1985 Landslides in western Blacksea region

1986 Malatya earthquake

1988 Rize-Çatak landslide

1981: Law No. 2479 (amendments for Law No. 7269 on Disasters).

1983: Law on State of Emergency.

1983: Law No. 2872 on the Environment.

1985: Law No. 3194 on Urban Development.

1985–1986: Regulations on Preparation of Plans and other statutes.

1986: Law No. 3254 (General Directorate of Meteorological Affairs).

1988: Regulation Revising the Guidelines for Organization of Emergency Assistance (No. 88/12777).

1983: Establishment of the MPWS (1983–2011).

1985: Fifth Five-Year Deevelopment Plan (1985–1989) requires the strengthening of rural dwellings in high-seismic-hazard regions.

1989: Sixth Five-Year Development Plan (1990–1994) lists principles and policies for the reduction of risk of earthquakes and other disasters.

1989: Adoption of the Turkish National Natural Disaster Plan as part of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (1990–2000).

1989–2013: Various amendments in Law No. 3194 for Urban Development toward enhancement of disaster resilience during settlement planning and construction through improved superintendence.

1990 Landslides in Trabzon-Giresun-


1992 Erzincan earthquake

1992–1993 Avalanches in eastern and southern


1992: Law No. 3838 (for earthquake assistance and measures in Erzincan, Tunceli, and Gümüşhane).

1992: Creation of permanent Civil Defense Units and equipping their hardware.

1992: Inclusion of social and economic losses in disaster regions on top of physical losses in rehabilitation.

1995 Afyon Dinar earthquake

1995 Isparta Senirkent


1995 İzmir floods

1996 Amasya-Çorum


1995: Law No. 4123 (Services in Aftermath of Damages and Losses Caused by Natural Disasters).

1995: Law No.4133 (Amendments to Law No. 7269 on disasters).

1996: Revision of the Seismic Design Code; becomes effective in 1997.

1996: Seventh Five Year Development Plan (1996–2000) formulates comprehensive approaches for regional development, physical planning, housing policies, and legal and institutional reforms.

1996: Revision of the Earthquake Hazard Map by METU/DMC on assignment by GDDA.

1996: Technical Guidelines for All Buildings to Be Reconstructed, Revised, Expanded, Repaired, or Strengthened in Disaster Areas Inclusive of Requirements on Workmanship and Materials.

1997: Regulation No.96/8716 for Emergency Management Center of the Prime Ministry.

1997: Law No. 4264 (on Tax Deferments for Disaster-Affected Persons).

1997: Parliamentary Inquiry in the Turkish Grand National Assembly for Identification of Measures Required for Reduction of Life and Physical Losses in Natural Disasters.

1997: Establishment of the Earthquake Loss Reduction Center within MPWS through cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

1997: Execution of the UNDP Project on Improvement of the Turkish Disaster Management

1998 Floods in İzmir, Aydın, Manisa, Denizli

1998 Floods and landslides in the Western Black Sea region

1998 Trabzon-Beşköy


1998 Adana Ceyhan earthquake

1999 Marmara (Bay of İzmit) Kocaeli earthquake

1999 Düzce Kaynaşlı


1999: Law No. 4452 (Counter Measures for Natural Disasters and Compensation of Losses); amended by Law No. 4540.

1999: Governmental Decree Nos. 574, 575, 576, 580, 583, 584, 586, and 587, with power of law.

1999: Establishment of the Turkish General Directorate for Emergency Management, TEMAD-TAY (through Decree No. 583).

1999: Establishment of Civil Defense Search and Rescue teams in 11 provinces (through Decree No. 586).

1999: Establishment of the Compulsory Earthquake Insurance Pool, DASK (through Decree No. 587).

1999: Initiation of the Marmara Earthquake Emergency Reconstruction Project: Integrating the institutional framework for disaster response and postdisaster physical, social, and economic rehabilitation, DRR and Management (loan through the World Bank).

2000: Decree Nos. 593–599.

2001: Law No. 4708 (on Building Construction Supervision).

2001: Regulations for Law No. 3194 amended (adjacent areas).

2002: Regulation No. 2002/4390 for Fire Protection of Buildings.

2000: Decree No.595 for Building Construction Supervision.

2000: The National Earthquake Council established (ended in 2007).

2001: Requirement for Adjacent Area Plans to consider disaster data, potentially hazardous areas, patterns of settlements.

2001 Eight Five-Year Development Plans (2001–2005); provided extensive coverage for legal, institutional, social, and economic dimensions for disaster reduction policies, linking disaster losses with urbanization and construction processes.

2002 Afyon Sultandağı


2002 Rize landslides

2003 Bingöl earthquake

2005 Sivas Koyulhisar


2004: Law No. 5216 on Metropolitan Municipalities.

2005: Law No. 5393 on Municipal Governments.

2005: Law No. 5301 for Provincial Special Administrations.

2005–2012: Amendments in laws for metropolitan and other municipalities, and Provincial Special Administrations to assume responsibilities in preparing disaster and emergency plans to reduce disaster damages and risks.

2006: Law No. 5491 (for the Environment).

2006: Law No. 5511 (provides amendments in the Disasters Law No.7269).

2006: Initiation of Strategic Management in the Public Domain.

2006: Establishment of the Professional Proficiency Authority.

2006: Launching of the Istanbul Seismic Risk Mitigation and Preparedness Project, for the enhancement of emergency preparedness, strengthening of public buildings, implementation of development and construction legislation, public education, and other improvements.

2007 Ağrı earthquake

2007: Revision of the Seismic Design Regulation.

2007: Amendments in Law No. 5711 on condominium ownership.

2007: Regulation No. (2007/12937) on Fire Protection of Buildings.

2007: Ninth Development Plan (2007–2013) aimed to reduce conflicts in powers and duties among public authorities to harmonize disaster response as required by Report No. (State Planning Organization SPO, DPT in its Turkish abbreviation, 2003) that reviewed the national institutional organization.

2009: Law No. 5902, establishing the organizational structure and duties of AFAD.

2009: Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority of the Prime Ministry created through the fusion of GDDA, TEMAD, and the General Directorate for Civil Defense

2009: Establishment of the Earthquake Advisory Board.

2010 Elazığ earthquake

2011 Kütahya Simav earthquake

2011 Van-Erciş earthquake

2011: Decree No. 644 creates the Ministry for Environment and Urban Affairs;* Decree No. 645 creates the Ministry of Forestry and Water Works.

2012: Law No. 6305 (Disaster Insurance).

2012: Law No. 6306 (on Transformation of Lands Under Disaster Risk).

2010: Grand National Assembly Inquiry Commission on Finding out Seismic Risk and Measures to Be Implemented.

2010: Integrated Urban Development and Action Plan (KENTGES 2010–2023) goes into effect.

2010: AFAD begins to assemble the Turkish National Disaster Archive.

2013: Turkish Disaster Information Database launched.

2011: Ministry for Environment and Urban Affairs created through Decree 644.

2011 Ministry of Forestry and Water Works created through Decree No. 645.

2011: National Earthquake Strategy and Action (UDSEP, 2012–2023) goes into effect.

2013: Regulation No. 2013/5703 on Response Services During Disasters and Emergencies.

2014: Tenth Development Plan (2014–2018) requires consideration of disaster risk and losses during macroeconomic, sectoral, and spatial planning; enhancement of community capacity and awareness against disasters to ensure disaster-resilient and safe settlements as a priority

2014: Turkish Disaster Response Plan (TAMP goes into effect.

Notes: (*) Casualty and housing damage figures cited here, as well as in the text, vary for both the August and November 1999 earthquakes.

(**) This name is also translated as the Ministry for Environment and Urbanization.