The strange case of earthquake risk mitigation in Istanbul

Ay, Deniz; Demires Ozkul, Basak (2021). The strange case of earthquake risk mitigation in Istanbul. City, 25(1-2), pp. 67-87. Taylor & Francis 10.1080/13604813.2021.1885917

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As an aspiring global city, Istanbul is at the crossroads of capital, political struggle, and socioeconomic transformation. Unfortunately, Istanbul is also at the crossroads of major active fault lines. This paper analyzes earthquake risk mitigation planning for the megacity since the last big seismic catastrophe of the Marmara Earthquakes in 1999 that hit the region, including Istanbul. We use the concept of riskscape to explore the political and technocratic construction of seismic risk and how this implies different experiences of risk to investment portfolios, the state, and the ordinary people living in the city. Our empirical analyses focus on the “Istanbul Seismic Risk Mitigation and Emergency Preparedness Project” (ISMEP), launched as a World Bank project in 2005 and still ongoing as of 2020. We argue that the ISMEP project epitomizes the “strange case” of earthquake risk mitigation in Istanbul due to its organizational complexity, financial expansion over its lifetime, and progression as a megaproject sponsored by international development funding despite its contraction in institutional targets. Our findings suggest that this centralized and non- transparent earthquake risk mitigation approach in Istanbul creates a fragmented riskscape for the megacity. The earthquake risk continues to threaten millions of inhabitants’ lives and livelihoods while making room for speculative real estate development.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Human Geography > Unit Political urbanism and sutainable spatial development
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Human Geography
11 Centers of Competence > Center for Regional Economic Development (CRED)

UniBE Contributor:

Ay, Deniz


900 History > 910 Geography & travel




Taylor & Francis




Louis Karl Zwyssig

Date Deposited:

07 Oct 2021 14:25

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:53

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

riskscape, risk mitigation, megaproject, earthquake, Istanbul, international development funding, disaster planning




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