Turkey: The Barrel Brief: Environmental Law Overhauled

In March 2006, arguably the biggest environmental scandal to date in Turkey occurred. Upon an anonymous tip, the authorities discovered hundreds of barrels buried illegally by a creek in the district of Tuzla, İstanbul. The barrels contained various types of poisonous and hazardous chemical substances. Subsequent investigations pointed towards high profile industrial companies as the culprits with the public and the Government strongly reacting to the scandal. However, the damage was done and those responsible could hardly be punished due to procedural issues. The scandal heightened the Government’s, as well as the public’s, sensitivities to environmental issues and served to raise awareness regarding the need to update Turkey’s environmental legislation.

The Environmental Law No. 28721 is the primary legislation governing environmental protection and improvement of the environment, appropriate and efficient use and protection of natural resources and land, the prevention of pollution and the protection and maintenance of wildlife and plantations. In the wake of the scandal, on 26 April 2006, Law No. 5491 was passed; revising, modernizing and expanding the Environmental Law ("Revised Environmental Law"). While keeping the general outline and spirit of the original law, the Revised Environmental Law is more specific on various issues and embraces a more modern perspective regarding environmental issues, with a view to draw level with EU legislation.

Core Principles and Purpose

The Revised Environmental Law introduces two principles as the main purpose of this law, namely a sustainable environment and sustainable development. The sustainable environment principle is defined as the "improvement, protection, and development of all environmental assets that constitute the environment of the present and future generation in every (social, economical, physical, etc.) way without endangering the existence and quality of the resources that will be needed by future generations." Similarly, the sustainable development principle is defined as the "development and growth based on the principle of establishing balance between the environmental, economical, and social targets, which ensure that future generations shall live in a healthy environment."

The expansion of the Revised Environmental Law’s definition section is noteworthy, not only due to its inclusion of these two core principles, but also due to its definitive coverage of various concepts and entities new to the Turkish environmental legislation, such as ‘biological diversity’, ‘ecological balance’, ‘sensitive lands’, ‘environmental management’ and ‘non-ionizing radiation’.

The High Council and the Ministry

The High Council of Environment, members of which shall be appointed by the Prime Minister from amongst the Council of Ministers and shall be chaired by him, has replaced the former Central Environmental Council. The High Council of Environment is responsible for, and authorized to, among others, (i) determining the targets, policies and strategies to be implemented to ensure an efficient environmental management; (ii) adopting legal and administrative measures that enable environmental issues to be considered with respect to economical decisions under the sustainable development principle; and (iii) resolving disputes on environmental issues concerning different ministries.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry ("Ministry") is the sole body authorized to inspect compliance with the provisions of the New Environmental Law. The Ministry may delegate this duty to the relevant City Private Administration, municipalities that established environmental management units, and certain other administrative bodies. The Ministry is also in charge of implementing all types of legal, technical, fiscal, and administrative measures to comply with national obligations that arise due to ratification of international treaties on the environment.

Protection of the Environment

Turkish law prohibits the direct or indirect release, storage, transportation and dislodgement of any type of waste or residue in a manner that may harm the environment. Entities falling within the scope of the relevant prohibitions, are obligated to take preventive measures if there is a possibility of pollution; to stop pollution; and to lessen or restore its impact on the environment if pollution has taken place. The Ministry shall procure and implement country-wide zoning plans on the scale of 1/50,000 and 1/100,000 to prevent environmental pollution that may arise due to meeting various needs of urban and rural populations.

The protection of biological diversity and ecological balance are essential. Commercial activities regarding endangered fauna and flora as well as rare species, unless otherwise allowed by legislation, are prohibited. Similarly, marine fish farms cannot be established either in any closed coves bearing a sensitive-lands quality or within natural and archeologically protected areas. All types of resources, income, fees and fines that are collected and gained within the framework of environmental legislation shall be allotted towards environmental matters before all else.

Hazardous Chemicals and Wastes

Importing hazardous wastes into Turkey is strictly prohibited by the Revised Environmental Law and stringent provisions regarding the handling, production, storage, transportation, annihilation of hazardous chemicals and wastes are also introduced. Entities that produce, sell, store, use or transport hazardous chemicals; or those that collect, transport, store, recycle, re-use or annihilate hazardous wastes are severally liable in respect of various obligations for different types of wastes, as detailed in the Revised Environmental Law. For example, such entities must procure "hazardous chemicals and wastes financial obligation insurance" and obtain the Ministry’s permission before commencing their operations.

Shutting Down Operations, New Administrative Fines, Criminal Behavior

One of the most significant aspects of the Revised Environmental Law is the strict application with regard to doling out penalties and fines, which previously were often deserved but rarely applied. The Revised Environmental Law provides that, should the activities of any persons or entities be found to be in violation of the applicable environmental regulations, the Ministry2, in its sole discretion, may grant such persons or entities a one-time-only grace period of less than one year. When a grace period has not been granted, the operations of such violating-party shall be immediately shut down; whereas when a grace period has been granted, operations shall be shut down if such violation has not been rectified at the end of such period.

Another equally important aspect of the Revised Environmental Law is the significant increase of administrative fines. For instance, those who produce, sell, store, use or transport hazardous chemicals or who collect, transport, store, recycle, re-use or annihilate hazardous wastes in violation of the relevant legislation, are subject to administrative fines ranging between 100.000 YTL and 1.000.000 YTL (approximately USD 75,000 and 750,000, respectively).3

A penalty of between six months and one year of imprisonment may be imposed on those who provide wrong or misleading information regarding environmental matters, in violation of the obligation to notify and provide information. The provisions of the (New) Turkish Criminal Code regarding "counterfeiting documents" shall be applicable to those who issue false or misleading documents in matters regarding the application of the Revised Environmental Law. Further, the provisions of the (New) Turkish Criminal Code, regarding intentional and negligent pollution of the environment, imposing monetary as well as imprisonment penalties, shall come into effect on 12 October 2006.

Financial Incentives

The Revised Environmental Law sets forth financial and fiscal incentives for activities focused upon the prevention and restoration of environmental pollution. Persons and entities that establish and operate treatment facilities and meet their various obligations under relevant regulations may receive a credit of up to 50% of their energy costs.


1. Published in the Official Gazette dated 11 August 1983 and numbered 18132.

2. or the authorized bodies to whom the Ministry’s inspection authority has been delegated.

3. Previously, these fines were as low as 7.150 YTL (approximately USD 5,000).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

    Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of www.mondaq.com

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions