One of the world's largest and most comprehensive sustainable development projects, the Southeastern Anatolia Development Project (GAP) has so far boosted Turkey's agricultural production and significantly contributed to exports. The $32 billion GAP, launched in 1977, is one of the world's largest and most comprehensive sustainable development projects, including efficient irrigation methods and a water infrastructure development scheme, has seen the gradual increase of investments each year, the project's President Sadrettin Karahocagil said.
Stressing that the GAP has a considerable share in the total investment budget of Turkey, Karahocagil stated that in line with the projects and targets for energy, irrigation and infrastructure services, 5 to 15 percent resource is earmarked in total investment.
Karahocagil said thanks to the irrigation project covering 1 million hectares, there is a significant increase in the productivity of agricultural products, which has in turn pleased farmers in the region.
Underlining that there has been very serious development and change in the region compared to previous years, Karahocagil said the welfare of locals has been improving daily, adding that export figures of the region have risen threefold in the last 15 years.
Pointing out that there are serious differences in the region compared to 15 years ago, Karahocagil recalled that the share of the region in Turkey's exports increased from 2 percent to 6 percent, while exports rose from $600 million to over $10 billion.
"Turkey's exports also grew, both in terms of quality and quantity. The increase was not only current but also steady. There were good developments in business life. We reached a total of 2 million insured employees from 300 employees," he continued. "There are serious developments and improvements in the region. Our cities have become more beautiful, our infrastructure has been completed, our cities have been connected to each another through highways. Almost all the provinces are connected to each other by double ways. We have divided roads both within the province and between provinces."
Karahocagil explained that most of the country's cotton and corn production is met by the provinces in the region, noting that there has been a significant increase in fertile soil due to irrigation.
Stating that the provinces in the region are now able to meet a major part of Turkey's needs in the production of cotton and corn in industrial products, Karahocagil said that imported products in question can be further cultivated in the region in upcoming years.
Karahocagil said that there had been an increase in the products grown in the provinces of the region, stating that 70 percent of Turkey's cotton need is produced by the region, while this ratio was almost zero 15 years ago.
"So, we are talking about a serious difference. Maybe there was no corn production before, but currently the region's provinces are producing 2.5 million tons of corn. The region is now a serious supplier of cotton and corn in Turkey," he noted. "Corn is produced in order to meet the needs for both animal feed and starch. Pistachio is already well known, and there is serious growth in the production of olives and pomegranate. We cover 10 percent of Turkey's production in wheat and continue to produce exponentially."
As part of the project, Turkey also plans to construct 22 dams and 19 hydropower plants. The first dam Turkey constructed as part of the GAP on the Euphrates was Karakaya, which began operating in 1988. Following Keban and Karakaya, the third dam on the Euphrates was the Atatürk Dam, whose reservoir has a capacity of 48 billion cubic meters (bcm) of water, completed in 1992. It was designed to store water for large-scale irrigation as well as for the generation of hydropower. Lastly, Turkey completed the construction of the Ilısu Dam but it has postponed the water-filling procedure to provide water flow to Iraq.