Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday launched a $ 15 billion canal project aimed at relieving pressure on the Bosphorus Strait by laying the foundation for a bridge along the planned route.
Critics of what Erdogan himself called a ‘crazy project’ when he unveiled it ten years ago question the viability of a waterway that runs 45 kilometers through swamps and land 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 mile-long bridge as a crowd waved Turkish flags. Erdogan said the channel would take six years to complete.
The government says it is increasingly dangerous for tankers to meander 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 million people. ‘inhabitants.
Already 43,000 vessels pass through per year, far more than the 25,000 that the government considers a safe level, resulting in increasingly long waiting times. By 2050, their number is estimated to rise to 78,000.
However, a poll suggests that a majority of citizens are opposed to the bill, as are Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu and the opposition CHP party, to which he belongs. Critics say it will destroy the marine ecosystem and endanger part of the city’s freshwater supply.
Bank officials told Reuters in April that some of Turkey’s biggest financial institutions were reluctant to fund the chain due to environmental concerns and investment risks.
Russia is also concerned that the canal will not be covered by the Montreux Convention of 1936, which restricts the passage of warships from countries other than the Black Sea through the Bosphorus.
Imamoglu called Saturday’s ceremony a ploy to save face from a project that was slow to materialize, in part due to economic difficulties. He said the bridge was part of a road project unrelated to the canal.