Turkey’s ambitious canal project begins

By Mike Hayes30 June 2021

Controversial €12 billion Kanal Istanbul to ease traffic congestion in Bosphorus Strait

One of the many bridges spanning the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey

Turkey’s Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure has announced the start of construction work on the first of six new bridges in Istanbul, as part of an ambitious project known as Kanal Istanbul.

The highly controversial project calls for a 45km-long artificial sea-level waterway (or canal), to run parallel to the Bosphorus strait and connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara.

When completed, the canal is expected to have a capacity of 160 vessel transits a day, enough to greatly ease traffic conditions and improve safety on the congested Bosphorus.

Along with the canal and bridges, the scope of the Kanal Istanbul project includes the construction of ports, housing districts and a marina.

The entire project is expected to be completed in six years, at an estimated cost of around €12.6 billion.

The ground-breaking ceremony of the bridge to be built on the Sazlıdere Dam was attended by Turkey’s President Recep Erdoğan and the transport minister Adil Karaismailoğlu.

Karaismailoğlu stated that some 500,000 people would be employed on the project, which, he added, would contribute more than €23 billion to the country’s economy.

He said, “When Kanal Istanbul is completed, in addition to ensuring the safety of life and property of our citizens in and around the Bosphorus, as well as protecting the historical and cultural texture of the Bosphorus; It will alleviate the traffic load of the Bosphorus. According to our simulations, Kanal Istanbul will be 13 times safer than the Bosphorus in terms of navigational safety.”

Opponents of the project say it will cause ecological damage, increase the dangers posed by earthquakes and further damage Turkey’s ailing economy.

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