Istanbul’s deputy leader has justified plans to link the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara by cutting a controversial 45km long canal through Turkey’s largest city.
Turkey’s transportation minister Ahmet Arslan revealed plans for the canal in January. The new waterway - to be known as Kanal Istanbul - would increase capacity for shipping to and from the Black Sea and would be the nation’s largest ever infrastructure project.
But the project has come in for intense criticism from environmentalists who claim it would damage water quality.
Deputy mayor of Istanbul Mehmet Ceylan has however defended the scheme, saying it will bring new business and create high quality new residential areas for the city’s growing population.
“Many metropolitan cities have difficulty giving quality of life due to transport problems and pollution,” said Ceylan, speaking at the international property fair Mipim last month.
“Delivering basic needs is no longer enough.
“Cities need to retain their cultural heritage and need to integrate that with new, smart infrastructure,” he said. “New centres are being driven by mega projects, bringing new businesses and living spaces.
“Istanbul, a city of 50M, has initiated a new 50km long water channel to connect the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea and Mediterranean beyond. We will create new opportunities in infrastructure for trade, tourism and housing,” he said.
The route selected would run between Küçükçekmec in the south, near Istanbul’s under-construction Ataturk Airport, to the Sazlıdere Dam and then north to Durusu. As designed, it will be able to accommodate 160 vessel transits per day - roughly equivalent to the current volume of traffic through the Bosporus.
Unlike the existing channel, which is protected by treaty, the new canal would allow Turkey to charge a service fee for transits. With the ability to raise revenues from users, Turkey will look for private partners to raise the funds necessary for construction.
Ceylan says the channel is just the latest in a line of mega projects designed to cater for and improve the lives of Istanbul’s growing population.
“The new airport, one of the largest constructed in the world, will handle 150M passengers a year when fully operational. The new Bosporus suspension bridge is the widest in the world,” he said. “These mega projects make our country attractive in the eyes of real estate investors,” he said.
He also revealed how the city is embarking on an earthquake resistant building programme that would see 7.5M homes made earthquake resistant by 2050.
The Turkish government has not said how much the project would cost and how long it would take to complete. However, local press has reported that building the canal would take €14.1bn and be completed in five years.