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Istanbul’s population drops for 1st time in 20 years

Istanbul’s population drops for 1st time in 20 years

Figures published by the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) on Thursday painted a bleak picture in regard to population concerns but may come as a relief for Istanbul, the country’s most populated city with over 15 million people. In December 2020, Istanbul was home to 56,000 fewer people than in 2019, when the population was 15.5 million. This marked the first time since 2000 that the population in the financial hub and probably most famous city of Turkey decreased.

The city, which has attracted people from all around the world throughout its history, crossed the 11-million mark in 2000, and with ever-growing urban development, the population gradually increased over the following two decades.

A decline after 20 years, however, may be little solace for the city as the same statistics also show that population density in Istanbul is the highest among Turkey’s 81 provinces. The number of persons per square kilometer is 2,976 (7,708 per square mile) in the city that straddles the Bosporus on a relatively small piece of land. Across Turkey, this number was 109 on average. In comparison, Kocaeli, an industrial hub east of Istanbul, had the second-highest population density in the country, at 533 people.

The TurkStat report did not give a cause for the drop in Istanbul’s population, but it might have something to do with the coronavirus pandemic, at least partly. A large number of people living in big cities “fled” to smaller towns, mostly in the countryside, early in the summer of 2020, after intercity travel restrictions were lifted. Istanbul, a hot spot of coronavirus cases, saw its fair share of departures. Although some residents of the city preferred the faraway western suburbs, the majority headed to the south where vacation resort towns are located.