Diyarbakır, 22 July 2008


First launched in 1980, the South-eastern Anatolia Project (GAP) was initially conceptualized as a programme geared to the development of land and water resources in the region and it was envisaged to build 19 hydraulic power stations and 22 dams along the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, accompanied by irrigation networks covering an area of 1.8 million hectares. With the GAP Master Plan (1989) and it ensuing revision in 2002, further investments in agriculture, industry, transportation, education, health and rural/urban infrastructure were also incorporated into the project and completion date was set as 2010.

The GAP is being implemented in South-eastern Anatolia which encompasses 9 administrative provinces (Adıyaman, Batman, Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, Kilis, Mardin, Siirt, Şanlıurfa and Şırnak). The size of area and population of this region corresponds approximately to 10% of the territory and population of the country as a whole.

Considering GAP investments in irrigation, it is observed that priority is given to water storage facilities (i.e. dams). Along this line, so far 15 dams were completed and a capacity to irrigate an area of about 1 million hectares was created. As of 2008, 272,972 hectares of land in the basin of the Euphrates and Tigris have been brought under irrigation. In other words only 15% of envisaged investments in irrigation could be actually realized. In energy investments, on the other hand, the rate of realization is 75%.


In the GAP Action Plan made public by Prime Minister Erdoğan on 27 May 2008 the basic goal is stated as brining prosperity, peace and happiness to the region.

The GAP Action Plan sets four axes of development:
  • Ensuring Economic Development
  • Ensuring Social Development
  • Enhancing Infrastructure, and
  • Building Institutional Capacity.


Diversification and strengthening of production in the region and realization of economic development by enhancing competitiveness are the main themes in the context of this first development axis. The following are also stated under this heading: Creation of gravity centres in 3 provinces of the region and introduction of a new package of incentives to support SMEs (small and medium size enterprises) including export support, technoparks and clustering so as to create employment. This section of the plan also includes other activities including culture tourism, utilization of natural resources, shift to renewable sources of energy and development of crop farming and animal husbandry.

It is worth noting here beforehand that gravity centres should not be seen as practice unique to the GAP Region. Gravity centres is a project to be implemented throughout the country. It is, however, positive that the Government has assigned priority in this context to the GAP region.

The plan states that regional, sector and project-based incentives will be introduced in the region. However there is no clarity as to the timing and content of these measures. Indeed, the present system of incentives is criticized for not luring sufficient investment to the region and its change is frequently mentioned as a need by Government authorities. Yet, in spite of discussions going on for 2 years now no change or revision has been introduced so far. Again, export support, technoparks etc. mentioned in the plan in the context of support to SMEs are also countrywide, that is they are not specific to the region. It is stated that clustering will be supported in the region, but there is no clarity about how this is going to be done. The only concrete activity in this section is the regional support to be given to SME investments. Indeed, this time there is clarity as to how many SMEs will be given support and targets were set. Though qualifications are yet not clear, this support is a positive step specific to the region.

The Action Plan contains a wide array of activities in the context of culture tourism. In some areas of the region there are plans and activities for protecting selected cultural properties, creating new tourist attraction centres and improving tourism infrastructure. No detail, however, is given with respect to properties to be restored. It is a pity that the city of Diyarbakır with its 5000 years-long past, hosting many civilizations and standing out as an open air museum with its cultural and historical properties is not among those centres selected for attracting culture and faith tourism. A positive point in this section is the initiative to take the cultural inventory of GAP provinces. In this section, some activities already planned for in the context of annual planning by the Ministry of Tourism have been expanded and integrated with the GAP Action Plan. There is no new strategy going beyond this.

Under the heading Natural Resources and Renewable Energy we understand that reforestation activities in the region will be given further speed. Meanwhile, however, forested areas in the region are still being set to fire for security purposes.

In the context of agriculture, the priority is given to raising the level of productivity including enhancement of the capacity of Agricultural Research Centre in Urfa. There is mention of various training- extension activities and project support schemes. Yet, these activities are not given a concrete content in the plan. In this part of the plan one can see some animal husbandry related support schemes specific to the region and there is also mention of some small scale clustering projects. None of these are radical enough to revitalize crop farming and animal husbandry activities in the region which have long been in decline. The plan has no word to say about bans on moving out to highlands and pastures which constitute the main factors explaining decline in animal husbandry. This part of the plan finally mentions initiatives to clear from mines 30,000 hectares of land along the border until 2012. So far only 316 hectares (31 hectares) of land along Mardin-Syria border could be cleared from mines and, unfortunately, this land cleared from mines was given not to local inhabitants striving for land but to the company removing mines for its prospective operations.


Ensuring social development is the second development axis in the Action Plan. In this part, it is stressed that the region remains below country averages in such areas as education, health, employment, social services and assistance, culture, arts, sports, etc. and the target is set as bringing the region closer to country averages in these areas.

Under the heading “Education”, there are concrete targets with respect to schooling and improvements in physical infrastructure for both improving access to and quality in education. This is a quite positive approach. The importance attached to these issues is also visible in the budget. Following infrastructure building, the second largest budget share in the action Plan is allocated to education (3 billion YTL) and about 2 million YTL is already earmarked for specific investments.

In the context of employment, there are various programmes developed by the İŞKUR to close the gap of qualified labour force in the region. These are, however, mere extensions of İŞKUR’s annual plans and not specific or novel to the region. Nevertheless, there are some positive points worth mentioning. One of these is related to the opening of new departments in universities in the region to respond to some particular regional needs, including Continuous Education-Training Centres to be instituted in the Universities of Dicle and Harran. The other is related to additional resources to be allocated to private administrations in the GAP Region in the context of vocational training. This part of the action Plan also mentions a “Programme of Work for Public Benefit” which goes without further explanation; still if this is meant to be a “Minimum Income Support Model” to mitigate the problem of poverty it should be considered as positive as well. It must be reminded, however, that this is an issue requiring further and detailed discussions with stakeholders in the region.

In relation to health, there is a plan to respond to health needs in the region in terms of physical and human resources. As a matter of fact there are specific targets here including improvements in physical conditions of existing health facilities, increasing beds in hospitals and establishment of new health centres, which are all positive. It should be mentioned, again, that many of these already fall within the programmes of the Ministry of Health.

In the context of Social Services and Assistance, there are activities geared to improving the capacity of SYDVs (Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundations) in the region and launching activities over SYDVs to the benefit of those sections of population under specific risks including children, women, the disabled, youth, migrants and the elderly. What the plan envisages for these disadvantaged groups is the establishment of centres including Community Centres, ÇATOMs and Social Life Centres. However, while these centres do serve as tools for these groups to get socialized and have their voices heard, they have not played any role in solving such urgent problems as hunger, unemployment, education and shelter. The past experience testifies that the functions of these centres remained rather limited. At present, community centres in the region are merely disorderly spaces where persons are employed at minimum wage. The new plan brings no clarity to the functions, capacities and budgets of these centres. In a region where poverty is so widespread, any social service programme should have been designed as much more comprehensively and responsive to many needs. This part of the plan is rather weak. The plan may be instrumental in bringing in some more assistance to local people; but there is nothing said about the structural solution of poverty in the region.

Under the heading “Culture, Arts and Sports” we observe some planned activities including the involvement of the public sector in promoting cultural and artistic activities, introduction of new playgrounds and gymnasiums, construction of culture centres, etc. Yet, Governorates are assigned central role in the coordination of cultural and artistic activities and this is risky. It is because such activities can truly flourish only in civil and free environments. In this context it would be much more appropriate to place civil society and artists at the centre of coordination. Cultural and artistic activities are those that can be carried out and in fact actually carried out by many different segments of society including NGOs, local governments and individuals. The section has no mention of research in and protection/preservation of local traditions, music and tongues.

  1. INFRASTRUCTURE buıldıng

The third development axis in the Action Plan is infrastructure building in the region, which mainly gives weight to the completion of irrigation infrastructure as the top priority of the GAP.

The plan sets the target of bringing 1,060,000 hectares of land under irrigation until 2012 where the ultimate size of land to be brought under irrigation is 1,820,000 hectares. This will be a truly important step for the region. The same part of the plan also includes targets in relation to the improvement of energy infrastructure. The energy infrastructure in the region is indeed in very bad conditions. Besides putting constraints of developments and improvements in industry, agriculture, tourism and life quality, this situation also leads to the resentment that it is the people of the region generating this energy without fully reaping its fruits. Improvements in energy infrastructure is therefore of critical importance for the region. As for strengthening transportation infrastructure, the Plan sets specific targets with respect to highways, railways and aerial transportation. It is a gap that there is no plan for constructing a civilian airport in Diyarbakır. In the same section, while being positive in content, such urban infrastructure services as waste water management, urban development plans, housing and solid waste management etc. can not be considered novel.


In this fourth and last development axis in the Action Plan, there is focus on institutional infrastructure required in the region for the materialization of activities and projects mentioned thus far. The only specific activity mentioned in this context is the envisaged GAP Banking School. The plan, however, gives no detail as to the content and working of this school. Development Agencies mentioned in the plan are agencies that will be active throughout the country. In addition to these, there are plans for the introduction of a “GAP Competition Council” and for re-activation of GİDEMs (Entrepreneur Support Centres). The Competition Council, however, is an extension of the GAP Investment Platform which, unfortunately, has not worked active enough so far. GİDEMs too have carried out various activities in the region, without bringing in expected value added because of some financial and managerial problems. Given this, there is no point in re-activating these centres. There is also a plan for establishing a GAP International Research and Irrigation Training Centre. Such a training centre would be of critical importance for the region; yet, while doing this, there is need to consider the problem of shortage of qualified labour force in the region.

In the last part of the Plan there are assessments relating to the GAP Regional Development Administration. It is a problematic issue from many respects considering that the GAP Administration is expected to follow up the implementation of the plan and coordinate relevant activities. The agency has for years being managed through Decree Laws and many qualified staff once working for the agency have quitted as a result of various administrative and political reasons while those remain are presently seeking ways of moving to other agencies. Given its present state, neither is there any point in maintaining this agency. Even its staff and personnel have no confidence in and see no future for their own agency. All these point out to the need for transforming the Administration within the framework of an overall re-structuring initiative. This re-structuring may include the transfer of headquarters to the region and strengthening in terms of staff, budget and legal framework.


The GAP Action Plan made public by the 60th Government is the 18th of various large and smaller packages launched during the 28 years-long history of the GAP. With the plan, the Government commits to finding jobs to 3,800,000 people within 5 years in the period 2008-2012 by carrying out 73 distinct activities under 4 major headings. With the plan, it is also targeted to bring 1.8 million hectares of land under irrigation and to increase per capita income in the region by 209%.

As can be seen in assessments made above with respect to single headings, although the Plan has some important and positive points, it cannot be deemed realistic especially in terms of its major objectives. The population at working ages in the region is 4,089,5591 and according to official figures 2 the number of people unemployed is 573,0003. 209% increase in per capita income does not sound realistic either.

With the decision of the Council of Ministers adopted in 1998, 2010 had been set as the target year for the completion of all GAP-related investments. The GAP Action Plan clearly demonstrates that the date of completion, which has been revised so many times, will be missed once more. The Plan does target the completion of a bulk of irrigation canals as an important component of the project and construction of few more dams, but does not envisage the completion of the full project. Looking at the action Plan, one can infer that the GAP will still be incomplete at the end of 2012 as well. Nevertheless, the Action Plan still have some merits for listing some important targets to be reached in 2012, seeking new sources of funding to be used in the project and giving weight to investments in irrigation.

It is one of the most important flaws of the plan that local people’s opinions were not solicited during the drafting stage. Counselling process covered meetings only with the representatives of the business world. In the implementation of the Action Plan too, major roles are shared by such State-led agencies and organizations as Development Agencies, gravity centres, GAP Management Body, etc. Any successful implementation of this plan requires the development of a participatory approach at planning and implementation stages, promotional activities covering all sections of society and ensuring contributions from and commitment by all stakeholders.

The Plan does not sufficiently address situation in areas out of the scope of irrigation. Of about 4 million hectares of farming land in the region, irrigation will cover a part extending over 1.8 million hectares. The impact of the GAP on different groups has so far been largely unequal. There is need to develop different programmes for non-irrigated areas and ways should be paved for reaping equitable benefits from the project. The plan has no mention of any initiative geared to altering the present state of unequal land distribution in the region.

The industry leg of the Action Plan is short and it is absolutely necessary that the second stage is accompanied and supported with an industry-focused development plan.
The Plan fails to focus on many urgent problems of people in the region. In fact, 60% of population in the region remains below poverty line while the Plan says almost nothing about such pressing issues as hunger, poverty and sheltering. In short, the social dimension in the plan is largely missing.
As far as its composition is concerned, the GAP Action Plan Action borrows such important activities as irrigation from the project, combines them with activities which are already covered by annual programmes, and adds to these some more activities. In other words, while the Plan covers some new activities, the rest are those from the annual programmes of public agencies some of which are presently underway.

In budgetary terms, for the first time we see a plan with defined funding sources. While this is important indeed, it is also essential to ensure that while national budget is drafted relevant governmental units and ministries arrange their respective budgets with due account of targets set in the GAP Action Plan. To go on, the 4th column “other Sources” in the budget table is not clear. To fund the GAP Action Plan, 14,533,016,000 will be allocated from the national budget within the period 2008-2012. However, total funding needed to fully complete the plan is calculated as 26, 702, 065,000 YTL. 7.3 billion YTL of this total is given in the financing programme as “presently foreseen funding”. However, there is a financing deficit of 4.9 billion YTL in the budget that is stated by the Government to be used in infrastructure building (irrigation, energy, transportation and social-physical infrastructure). It is stated in the financing table of the Plan that this gap will be covered through extra-budgetary sources without any explanation as to how and where this financing will come from. Through not explicitly stated in the Plan, the Prime Minister declared that returns to privatizations and unemployment fund will be used for this purpose.

The ultimate goal of the Action Plan is stated as “brining prosperity, peace and happiness to the region by ensuring economic growth, social development and employment expansion in the region.” Yet the Plan has no word to say about the fact that a large majority of citizens to benefit from these are Kurdish. Even more, the plan has nothing to say about the Kurdish question. Earlier, during the introduction of the plan, the Prime Minister stated that one channel of the TRT would continuously broadcast in local languages and this statement gave the impression that the Action Plan also included demarches for the solution of this problem. It was then found out that the Plan had virtually nothing to say about it. The plan grossly omits the major dimensions of the Kurdish problem. The plan does not touch upon such issues as democratization, human rights and cultural rights as well as other significant issues related to the Kurdish question including forced migration, system of village guards, clearance of war residuals (mines, unexploded bombs, mortars, etc.), seasonal migration, return to villages, ban on pastures, etc. The single target in this respect is the clearance of a mined zone on Mardin-Syria border. Yet, this problem of mines is not confined to border zones. There are mined tracts of land also in inner parts, around many civilian settlements4. The plan introduces no specific programme or remedy for mine victims in the region. It could have been thought, for instance, to incorporate relevant awareness building sessions in school curricula in the region until all mines are cleared and to launch awareness building programmes and campaigns against war residuals including mines.

Unfortunately, while skipping many points related to the Kurdish question, the Plan unfortunately fails to be promising in regional development as well. Although important, support schemes such as planned gravity centres, incentives, SME support, agricultural support programmes, etc. all fall short of the aim of removing interregional development disparities. Moreover, there is no clarity as to how this action Plan will be given effect.

After this point, there are few options:

a- In the region, the plan is not conceived as a solution to the Kurdish problem and it thus fails to build trust in this respect. Therefore either the plan itself should be consolidated with a fifth dimension related to political stability or it should be implemented in conjunction with parallel policies developed in the context of ensuring political stability.

b- At present, there is no faith in the South-eastern Anatolia Project. Hence, following the completion of irrigation canals, the South-eastern Anatolia Project should be terminated. Then a new region should be delineated jointly by all relevant parties on the basis of those provinces that heavily experienced OHAL (state of emergency administration) and armed conflict and a new development programme covering these provinces should be introduced and implemented.

The Action Plan is far from the aim of bringing prosperity, peace and happiness to the region. Achievement of this aim requires the recognition of the Kurdish problem and creation of a democratic environment conducive to heal the trauma experienced by the people of the region. Finally, success in the process of socio-economic development in the region is possible only when this aim is taken in conjunction with the solution of the Kurdish problem.

1 Results of TÜİK ADNKS 2007; population in the age group 15-65 .
2 15.1% for TRC1, 12.0% for TRC2, 15.7% for TRC3 and 14% for regional average.
3 Unofficial figures suggest that the rate of unemployment in the region is around 60%.
4 According to the Ottawa Convention the mine stock declared by Turkey is about 3 million and while this stock had to be eliminated until 1 March 2004 no statement came from Turkey.