Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took the first step to build a canal on the western edge of Istanbul, worrying about the environmental and economic impact of the project.
Erdogan said at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Sazlidere Bridge on the planned route on Saturday: “Today, we are opening a new chapter in Turkey’s development history.”
“Let’s see Istanbul Canal As a project to save the future of Istanbul… to ensure the safety of the lives and property of the citizens of Istanbul and the surrounding Bosphorus,” he said.
The government stated that the project will ease ship traffic and reduce the risk of accidents in the Bosphorus Strait (one of the busiest waterways in the world), which connects the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea.
Erdogan called it his “crazy project” when he first proposed the construction of the canal in 2011. This 45-kilometer (28-mile) long project connects the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea to the west of the Bosphorus. Including the construction of new seaports, bridges, businesses, residential areas and artificial lakes.
Erdogan said the canal is estimated to cost 15 billion U.S. dollars and is expected to be completed in six years.
“Look, this is not the opening ceremony of the fountain,” he said at the event. “Today, we are laying the foundation for one of the exemplary canals in the world.”
Transportation professor and former congressman Mustafa Ilikali told Al Jazeera that since 2005, sea traffic in the Bosphorus has increased by 72%.
“Tankers cause accidents in narrow straits. Ships to be processed pollute the ocean and cause emissions,” he said.
Muzaffer Bayram, a citizen living in Istanbul, believes that the canal is good for Turkey.
“See these boats waiting? When we have a canal, they will not wait here. Besides, they will pay more [to pass through Turkey]. This is for the benefit of my country,” he told Al Jazeera.
However, opponents say that the canal will cause profound ecological damage in Istanbul, exacerbate the danger caused by the earthquake, and reduce the Weak Turkish economy Under the greater debt burden.
“Through this new canal, the Black Sea and Marmara waters will be mixed together. This will have ecological consequences and endanger the already fragile water supply and marine life,” Pinar Giritlio, vice president of the Chamber of Urban Planners Lu (Pinar Giritlioglu) said.
Ercument Gulemek, a farmer and livestock farmer in Baclali, said the project will occupy some of his villages.
“We want to expand our business and build an indoor barn, but we can’t. This is forbidden. What I do is the only job I know. Only after these places become settlements can I become a night watchman,” he told Peninsula TV station.
The first structure of the project is an eight-lane, 840-meter (approximately half a mile) road bridge, which will connect the North Marmara Highway, which will also connect to other recent infrastructure projects-a new airport and the first Three Bosphorus Bridges.
This led Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamolu, who represents Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, to refer to Saturday’s ceremony as an “illusion” and related to the highway plan rather than the canal plan.
“The bridge construction here has nothing to do with the canal project. It has to do with the highway hub,” he said at a press conference at Sazlidere on Thursday.
Middle Eastern analyst Samuel Ramani said that although the Bosphorus traffic volume has increased by 15 times in the past half century is a serious problem, it must be weighed against environmental and geopolitical issues- Including reports that most of the funding for the project will come from China.
“Changing the congestion in the Bosphorus is a valid argument,” he told Al Jazeera.
“But the other question is-will this weigh environmental costs, and if the project is shelved, will it also pose a threat to Turkish sovereignty? [financed] China? “