Erdogan inaugurates controversial canal project, mayor of Istanbul has nightmares of it

June 28, 2021 10:43 AM STI

By Jean Solomou
Nicosia [Cyprus], June 28 (ANI): Ignoring strong reservations and objections from many quarters, Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday took the first step in the implementation of his most ambitious megaproject called the Canal Istanbul project , with the inauguration ceremony of the Sazlidere dam. . The project, which Erdogan called “crazy” when he first suggested in 2011, involves digging a 45-kilometer man-made canal, parallel to the Bosphorus, connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of ​​Marmara. The planned canal is expected to be used by 160 ships per day, supposedly to relieve congestion and decrease the risk of accidents in the Bosphorus Strait. The project includes the construction of new seaports, bridges, businesses, living quarters, a marina and artificial lakes.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of Istanbul’s first canal bridge, Erdogan said the government is opening a new page in the history of the Turkish Republic with the canal project, which it aims to complete for an estimated cost of $ 15 billion over six years. “We see the Istanbul Canal as a project to save the future of Istanbul … to ensure the safety of life and property of the Istanbul Bosporus and the citizens around it.” He added that projections show that “the number of ships passing through the Bosporus will increase from the current annual average of 45,000 ships to 78,000 in 2050 … The passage of every large ship poses a danger to the city. Bosphorus, there is heavy traffic of ships of all classes and capacities, both in the north-south and east-west direction, ”he said.
Earlier, Transport Minister Adil Karaismailoglu boasted: “Our Istanbul Canal project, which will increase Turkey’s efficiency in world trade and bring Turkey to a leading position in global economic corridors, will leave its mark in history as a guarantee of the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Turkey, which is located on the most important trade corridors of the developing world. 500,000 people will be employed and an economic contribution of 28 billion dollars will be made. Turkey will become a leader in global maritime trade.
It should be mentioned, however, that this does not correspond to reality, as traffic through the Bosporus in recent years has decreased by 10% due to the construction of oil pipelines, as well as the increase in the size of tankers, because the same quantities of oil and other goods can be transported with fewer ships.

Erdogan has always had a strong penchant for megaprojects, such as the world’s largest airport in Istanbul, a rail tunnel under the Bosphorus, a third bridge over the Bosphorus, a giant mosque, a billion dollar port complex and a 1000-room presidential palace in Ankara. In this way, he created thousands of new jobs, offered lucrative jobs to his buddies, and increased his power base. However, some of these projects did not work as planned by the Turkish president and some are losing money.
The estimated cost of $ 15 billion for such a complex project is unrealistic. A recent developer conference in France estimated it at $ 65 billion, when it would be nearly impossible to complete in just 6 years. It is more likely to take 20 years or more. Turkish banks, citing environmental and sustainability concerns, have refused to finance the project and it would be very unlikely to find foreign investors willing to invest so much money in a project that may not be completed if the market changes. government in Ankara. The Chinese government may be willing to take on some of the funding, perhaps under the Belt and Road Initiative, but this will certainly come at a cost for Turkey’s independence.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition CHP party, has pledged to drop the $ 15 billion plan if Erdogan is defeated in the elections scheduled for 2023. He and Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, who is considered as a potential presidential candidate, also threatened to blacklist the international finance and construction companies involved in the project. Speaking to reporters, Imamoglu said, “I can’t sleep at night when I think about this cement project. I have nightmares about it.” He also said that announcing the construction of the bridge at Sazlidereas as a first step in the construction of the Istanbul canal is an “illusion”, as the bridge has nothing to do with the canal project, but it has something to do with it. thing to do with the road junction. “
Many opponents of the project say it seriously endangers the environment, the marine ecosystem as well as the basins that provide nearly a third of Istanbul’s fresh water. Pinar Giritloglu, Vice-President of the Chamber of Town Planners, said: “Through this new channel, the waters of the Black Sea and Marmara will merge. This will have ecological consequences and jeopardize an already precarious water supply and marine life. Some experts warn that the construction of the canal will pose a serious danger of salinization and contamination of soils and groundwater, as the canal would carry salt water from the Black Sea to the Sea of ​​Marmara ”,
Other critics of the Istanbul Canal project fear that its cost will skyrocket, further weakening Turkey’s struggling economy, and that it will not bring sufficient revenue to the government because they fail to see why ships that can currently cross the Bosphorus for a nominal fee, will pay high fees for using the canal. Additionally, they say the cost-benefit ratio of these megaprojects appears to be “out of balance” from a financial and environmental perspective. They also point out that this will be an error that cannot be corrected.
Cemal Saydam, professor of environmental engineering, declares: “Canal Istanbul is not a project of which we can say: ‘We made a mistake, let’s go back. Even if you regret it, there is never going back. Therefore, this project should not take place. “(ANI)

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