Earthquake and Climate Resilience in Istanbul

We are immensely saddened by the devastating impacts of the Kahramanmaras earthquake which affected Türkiye and Syria on February 6, 2023 and for all of those affected. 

At COP26 in 2021, CRH lead organization Build Change had the opportunity to have a conversation with Ekrem İmamoğlu, the Mayor of Istanbul about the steps that the city has taken towards resilience against earthquakes and climate-friendly policies. 

Given recent events, we’re revisiting this conversation with Dr. Elizabeth Hausler, Founder & CEO of Build Change with a short excerpt from the discussion, which you can watch on-demand in full

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Elizabeth Hausler: You’ve been vocal about how we need to take city-level action on climate change independently, and often despite, national level politics. Can you tell us how Istanbul is addressing this?

Mayor İmamoğlu: Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. This rate will reach about more than 68% in the near future.

Unfortunately, our cities, which are home to billions of people, are the source of many problems, just as much as the opportunities they offer. We live in a world order where cities are both perpetrators and victims of climate change. In this process, we as the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality consider it a priority to make our city much safer for our citizens.

Istanbul is one of the most unique cities on the planet, but it is also geopolitically located in one of the locations with the highest earthquake risks in the world. Istanbul is the largest city in Europe, with a population of 16 million, and also more than 2 million immigrants; we are in total more than 18 million Istanbulites. It is located at a very strategic point geopolitically – first of all, half of Turkey’s industrial production takes place in and around Istanbul. In addition, direct investments of many countries, especially EU and USA, are located in Istanbul.

I would like to summarize what we have done in Istanbul in two years under three headings:

  1. Due diligence: We have taken into account thousands of years of historical data with the participation of many experts and scientists. Experts estimate that the probability of an earthquake of 7M or higher in the next 30 years as 65%. Due to this dangerous probability, 300,000 risky residences in Istanbul need to be renovated. We have initiated extensive detection studies to identify risky buildings and prepare the risk analysis for earthquakes.

  2. Action plan and earthquake mobilization plan: According to experts, in the scenario of a devastating earthquake of at least 7.5M, 22.6% of buildings in the city would be destroyed and 30% of the roads would be closed. Drinking water and wastewater lines and natural gas lines would be damaged. There would be a great economic loss in total. Due to this dangerous outlook, we urgently decided to develop widespread resilience measures in our city. With the Istanbul earthquake workshop which we held with 1,200 participants from 174 institutions and academies in 2019, we defined our action on a participatory basis and prepared a comprehensive earthquake mobilization plan.

  3. Increasing physical endurance: We aim to transform the building stock in Istanbul into earthquake-resistant and eco-friendly structures. So far, our efforts on urban resilience have impacted around 330,000 citizens in more than 80,000 residences in 7,200 commercial areas. These numbers may seem high to you, but when you consider the 16 million population of Istanbul, you can understand that we are only at the beginning. We can consider that as Istanbul is the largest city in Europe, earthquake resistance is crucial not only for the future of Istanbul and Turkey, but also for the whole continent.

In this regard, we need global solidarity. With its creative and entrepreneurial capacity, Istanbul is strong enough to afford all kinds of solidarity.


Earthquake resistance is crucial not only for the future of Istanbul and Turkey, but also for the whole continent.

To learn more about how Istanbul’s steps towards earthquake resilience, read about their Disaster Preparedness Workshop and their efforts to inspect potentially risky buildings

Learn more about the work that Build Change is doing to respond to the Kahramanmaras earthquake to build back better.

Want to strengthen your country's housing stock?

Read the Build Change Guide to Resilient Housing or email us at to begin your journey.