Reducing Risk Before Disaster Strikes: Seven Lessons from Turkey

This brief captures the lessons from evaluating the World Bank’s Istanbul Seismic Risk Mitigation and Emergency Preparedness Project.

Background: Population Centers in Turkey are Highly Vulnerable to Earthquakes

Turkey faces high vulnerability to earthquakes, with Istanbul posing the most serious risk due its high seismic risk and its role as the population and economic center of Turkey. A major earthquake near Istanbul in 1999 led to over 17,000 deaths and damage estimated at $US 5-13 billion. The World Bank supported a post-earthquake reconstruction project over 1999-2006, but vulnerability to earthquakes remained high, especially for Istanbul.

A major earthquake in Istanbul would be catastrophic, and could derail the country’s development trajectory. The government was committed to undertaking disaster risk mitigation, but needed external assistance and support to do so. The World Bank was a suitable partner based on its financing capacity, technical expertise in disaster risk management and mitigation, and credibility and trust in Turkey based on prior disaster risk management engagements. These considerations motivated the creation of the Istanbul Seismic Risk Mitigation and Emergency Preparedness Project (ISMEP) as a proactive risk mitigation effort.