Tomorrow's Istanbul

“Horizontal settlements to reduce earthquake disaster risk and more green spaces that can be used as post-earthquake assembly areas”.

      Zeynep, 22, student, resident of Büyükçekmece District.


Istanbul is Türkiye's largest city.  Its proximity to the North Anatolian Fault Zone makes the city highly prone to earthquakes, but other hazards such as landslides and floods are also common.

The combined impact of hazards is not evenly distributed. Illegal informal settlements, for example, accumulate risk through poor structural resilience and increasing social vulnerabilities. These have undergone different phases of transformation in response to pressures from migration and urban expansion. New urban transformation projects are now underway amid different reactions from different parts of society.


Istanbul Demographic Data


Istanbul Challenges


Istanbul lies on the North Anatolian Fault line, which has a history of producing devastating earthquakes.

  • Between 1939 and 1999, Istanbul experienced 17 earthquakes with a magnitude of 5 or higher.*
  • The most destructive earthquake in recent history was the 1999 Marmara earthquake, which had a magnitude of 7.4 resulting in over 17,000 deaths and extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure.

*Istanbul Earthquake Rapid Response and Early Warning System


1999 Marmara earthquake

Damaged buildings in the 1999 Marmara earthquake. Source:

1999 Marmara earthquake

Damaged buildings in the 1999 Marmara earthquake. Source:


The city's rapid urbanization, combined with inadequate infrastructure and poor land management, increases the risk of flooding. For example, in 2009, heavy rainfall led to widespread flooding in Istanbul, resulting in the loss of 31 people and the cost of damage has been estimated as being in excess of $70 million.



2009 Flash floods in Turkey.


Rural to urban migration is a significant phenomenon in Turkey, driven by a combination of economic, social, and demographic factors. Many rural areas in Turkey face challenges such as limited job opportunities, low agricultural productivity, and lack of basic infrastructure. As a result, people have been migrating to urban areas in search of better economic prospects, including formal employment, higher wages, access to education, healthcare. Approximately only 18% of the population in Istanbul is registered to the city.

Aside from domestic immigration; Turkey currently hosts one of the largest migrant populations in the world, with 3.9 million* registered migrants and refugees residing in the country. The majority of these migrants are Syrian, fleeing ongoing conflicts in that country. According the reports, there are more than 500.000 Syrian refugees living in Istanbul.


Refugee camp

Kilis Refugee Camp in southeasthern Turkey.


Building Codes 

Issues with building codes in Turkey, including informal settlements, accelerated construction without proper compliance with building codes, and inadequate preparation for hazards such as earthquakes, have been documented by various sources including reports from UN-Habitat, the World Bank, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, and media coverage from Turkish outlets.

The UN-Habitat has conducted research on informal settlements and housing conditions in Turkey, highlighting that the rapid urbanization and population growth in Turkey have led to the proliferation of housing often built without complying with formal building codes.

Similarly the World Bank has published reports that highlight the lack of proper controlling mechanisms to ensure compliance with building codes, resulting in buildings being constructed hastily without adhering to the necessary safety regulations.


Key stakeholders 

Instabul key stakeholders represent three groups from the institutional and private sectors and the community.

Institutional Stakeholders

  • Büyükçekmece District Municipality (BM) 
  • İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IMM) 
  • Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD)
  • Presidency Strategic Planning and Budget Directorate
  • Ministry of Environment, Urbanisation and Climate Change
  • Ministry of Family and Social Services (MFSS)
  • Istanbul City Council (ICC)

Private Stakeholders

  • Construction Sector Representatives in the case area
  • Real Estate Representatives 

Community Stakeholders

  • Local Associations of women, youth, disabled, elderly, contemporary life
  • Hometown Associations
  • Neighbourhood Association
  • Women
  • Youth 
  • Disabled 
  • Elderly 
  • Poor who depend on social assistance for living
  • Roma people
  • Refugee group (Syrians)
  • Chambers/ Association of Architects/ Engineers/ Planners / Environmentalists 


Future Visioning Meeting in Istanbul



Istanbul’s approach using the TCDSE.

In Istanbul, the local team of Tomorrow's Cities has identified a case study area in the Büyükçekmece District.

Situated in the western part of Istanbul, Büyükçekmece is home to over 300,000 residents. Despite being susceptible to various hazards such as landslides, liquefaction, and tsunamis, the team specifically focused their efforts on assessing earthquake risk. This decision was driven by the forecast of a significant earthquake due to the proximity of the active North Anatolian Fault.


Study area in the Büyükçekmece District Istanbul

Büyükçekmece District Istanbul

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