Canal for Istanbul

ISTANBUL – The Turkish metropolis will get a canal to connect the seas north and south of the city. The canal should reduce the number of ships passing through the Bosporus, the current connection between the Marmara and Black Seas, to zero. The Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan announced that Wednesday morning at a conference.

The canal, called Canal Istanbul, will be almost fifty kilometers long and 150 meters wide, and will be dug west of the city. The prestigious project must be finished by 2023, the year the Republic of Turkey celebrates its 100th anniversary. The Bosporus is the busiest sea lane in the world, with about 50,000 passages a year. The waiting time for vessels to pass through the strait can be up to weeks: the strait is narrow and for safety reasons there is no two way traffic. The Canal Istanbul would be able to handle up to 160 ships a day, so at least five thousand more per year.

The reactions to the project are not all positive. Experts fear that it will stimulate the growth of Istanbul, now a city of 16 million, to maybe even 30 million people. Especially in combination with another prestigious project: a third bridge over the Bosporus. Both projects, say experts, could also endanger ‘the lungs of Istanbul’: the woods north and west of the city would have to be partially destroyed.

Safety is also an issue: Istanbul is on a fault line and it’s not clear if the canal can be made a hundred percent earthquake-proof. A dangerous combination with the construction plans alongside the canal, revealed in a presentation during the conference.

The financing of the project is as yet unknown, but it’s assumed that the project will be financed with both public and private money. ‘There will be no financial problems’, is what Erdoğan said about it. The Prime Minister already hinted at the project years ago: he spoke of a ‘crazy plan’ that he had and that he would reveal when the time was right. Which triggered opposition leader Kilicdaroglu to react today: ‘This country doesn’t need crazy men, but men who think.’

I do recommend you to read this great blog post about Erdogans ‘crazy plan’, by journalist Aengus Collins, who is underwhelmed by it:

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