UNDP, Turkey partner to tackle 200M tons of earthquake debris

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Türkiye are working together for the removal of nearly 200 million tons of debris following the devastating earthquakes and wastewater management, the former’s Türkiye representative has said, calling on the international community to continue to offer expertise in these fields.

“According to our assessment, there is 200 million tons of waste, the size of 70,000 football fields and twice the size of Manhattan. The lesson from our previous experiences is that this is all recyclable, but it takes time and planning. It should definitely not be thrown into places such as dried river beds, because then it may bring new disasters such as flooding. We are working very closely with the Environment Ministry on this issue,” UNDP Türkiye Representative Louisa Vinton told daily Hürriyet in an interview.

Eleven provinces in the Southeastern Anatolian Region of Türkiye were severely hit by two 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude major earthquakes, respectively, on Feb. 6, and claimed the lives of more than 45,000 people. The disaster left Hatay, Kahramanmaraş and Adıyaman almost flattened and the rest with tens of thousands of heavily damaged buildings.

Vinton highlighted the importance of debris management, stressing, “This debris can be removed and managed in about two years, but this may change depending on the number of trucks, organization and planning. As UNDP, we requested a fund of $113.5 million for waste management.”

Among the priorities of UNDP are water supplies, waste management, hygiene, removing debris and providing job opportunities to both Turkish nationals and refugees in the earthquake zone. The damage assessment and the analysis for needs by UNDP have a critical role in guiding the international community to shape financial support in the process.

“We will use a part of our budget for emergency wastewater management and the supply of hygiene materials. We also requested mobile toilets, but we saw that if proper cleaning is not done, these can cause bigger problems,” she said, recalling many earthquake victims cannot reach a clean water source, and cannot shower or wash clothes.