- Critics warn of the canal’s environmental impact and investment risk
- Government Says Rising Shipping Levels Make It Essential
- 45 km canal to be built west of the city
ISTANBUL, June 26 (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday launched a $ 15 billion canal project intended to relieve pressure on the Bosphorus Strait by laying the foundations for a bridge along the planned route.
Critics of what Erdogan dubbed his “crazy project” when he revealed it a decade ago question the viability of a waterway that runs 45 km (28 miles) through swamps and swamps. farms on the western outskirts of Istanbul, and say it will harm the environment.
“We see Kanal Istanbul as a project to save Istanbul’s future,” Erdogan said at a ceremony. “We are opening a new page in the history of Turkey’s development. “
Construction workers poured cement into the foundation of the 1.6 km bridge as a crowd waved Turkish flags. Erdogan said the construction of the canal would take six years.
The government says it is increasingly dangerous for tankers to navigate their way between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara along the congested Bosporus, which divides the European and Asian halves of Istanbul, a city of 15 millions of inhabitants.
Already 43,000 ships pass through each year, far more than the 25,000 that the government considers safe, resulting in increasingly long wait times. By 2050, this number is estimated to increase to 78,000.
Nonetheless, a survey suggests that most citizens oppose the project, as do Istanbul’s mayor Ekrem Imamoglu and the opposition CHP party, to which he belongs. Critics say it would destroy a marine ecosystem and endanger part of the city’s freshwater supply.
Senior bankers told Reuters in April that some of Turkey’s biggest banks were reluctant to fund the channel due to environmental concerns and investment risks. Read more
Russia is also concerned that the canal may not be covered by the Montreux Convention of 1936, which restricts the passage of warships from non-Black Sea states through the Bosphorus.
Imamoglu had dismissed Saturday’s ceremony as a bailout for a project that has been slow to materialize, in part due to economic difficulties. He said the bridge was part of a freeway project unrelated to the canal. ($ 1 = 8.7493 lire)
Report by Daren Butler
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