Two new cities near Istanbul

ISTANBUL – North of the Turkish metropolis Istanbul the construction of two new cities is set to start, both with a potential population of at least one million inhabitants. At least, that’s what the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan wants. He announced the plan on Wednesday at an election meeting in Istanbul.

Both cities will be built on the Black Sea coast: one on the European side and one on the Anatolian side. They will be connected with a bridge over the Bosporus, the third one, which is already planned. The cities will be earthquake-proof: experts say Istanbul will very likely be struck by a major earthquake in the near future and most of the city is unprepared for that. Istanbulites could move to the new urban areas for safety. At least, some of them could, because all 16 million won’t fit.

The project is part of a package of plans of governing party AKP to prepare the constantly growing Istanbul for the future. Or, more precisely, for 2023, the year in which the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic will be celebrated. Two weeks ago Erdogan announced ‘Canal Istanbul’, a canal west of the city that aim to reduce heavy shipping traffic in the Bosporus. The third Bosporus bridge had already been discussed, as had a third airport. It’s not a coincidence that the plans are being revealed now: in a month there are general elections in Turkey.

The new cities would together occupy about 40,000 hectare. A big part of the woods in the area will have to be cut down, and as well huge water basins that have been the water reservoirs for the city for centuries would be put out of use. Prime Minister Erdoğan however said that he has been dreaming of combating the uncontrolled growth of the city since 1994, when he became the Mayor of Istanbul. With the new cities he wants to control growth, but experts fear the plans are doomed to get out of hand. There is already a lot of illegal construction going on in and around the city, and that will only increase when more official building sites are opened.

That will have a huge impact on Istanbul’s already severe traffic problems, and will further increase immigration to the agglomerate. Istanbul now has the capacity to grow to 17 million inhabitants, but with the new plans that could even grow to 25 to 30 million. Experts warn of it becoming an unliveable city.

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