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In Turkey: Clean Water for Growing Cities

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In Turkey: Clean Water for Growing Cities

Tunya Celasin, Sr Communications Officer in the World Bank Ankara Office, offers this story.

The mayor of Polatli, a suburb of Ankara, Turkey, argues that clean water is a basic human right. But until very recently, it was a right 100,000 of the town's residents did not share.

Living without drinkable water

Nesrin Coban lives with her husband, a day laborer, and her two daughters in a clean second floor apartment. She turns on the tap to do her dishes, and out comes clean, drinkable water. The dishes in her dish washer sparkle.

But it wasn't always so. Until 2007, Nesrin and 100,000 of her neighbors had to buy bottled water and lug it up stairs.

Nesrin Coban

"It's made our life easier, for sure. We don't spend money on water, we trust the tap water. We used to buy water in bottles, and I trusted that less than I trust the tap now," she says.

Hanife Yildirim lives a few blocks away, in a fourth floor apartment. Her husband is retired, and she lives with two of her four kids.

"We'd buy two or three bottles for the four of us living here. That was a lot of money on our retired salary!" she says. " But now, our water is clean."

A long trip for clean water

Hanife Yildirim
Hanife Yildirim

That's because Polatli built a water treatment plant, which cost about $2.5 million. It filters ground water, sending the mineral-heavy undrinkable water into the Sakarya, a nearby river.

The clean water goes by underground pipe 80 kilometers to town.

"The water goes through membranes, each sip of water is filtered through 216 membranes, " explains Kordal Koseoglu, the plant's chief engineer.

Moving into cities

With support from the World Bank, Turkey has connected almost one million people to clean water in the last several years. About 70% of Turkey's population now lives in cities, and the influx of people strained the already weak water supply system.

Yakup Celik
Yakup Celik

And that 70% is expected to rise. Experts say within the next decade or two, 85% of Turkey's population will live in cities. So basic urban systems, like water, sewage, energy and roads, will face even more strain.

Polatli's mayor, Yakup Celik, campaigned on a pledge to improve the water supply.

"These services let people spend less on electricity and on water. We're happy that this is for regular, average people; it brings quality to their lives, and that's a basic human need," he says.

Cleaner water on the other side

For Polatli, wastewater is the next focus. Engineers would like to stop dumping into the Sakarya river, and they are in the process of building a new wastewater treatment plant.

The new systems benefit those like the Coban and Yildirim families. But they also benefit everyone, by cutting down on water loss, minimizing water-borne disease, and cleaning up Turkey's rivers, lakes and seas.

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