Kanal İstanbul

mega project Kanal IstanbulThe population of the town to be built around new Turkey’s mega project Kanal Istanbul has been reduced to 500,000 upon the order of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Furthermore, tall buildings will not be included in the project that will connect the Marmara Sea to the Black Sea. The Turkish Sabah daily revealed the first visuals prepared for showing how Kanal Istanbul will look when it is completed. The details of the project were determined in the meeting held last month with Erdoğan, and it was decided that natural water resources and green areas around the canal will be preserved as much as possible. The population of the new city has now been decreased from 1.2 million to 500,000.

A quarter of a million people will reside on both sides of the canal, and natural flora will be preserved along the bridges over the canal in order for animals to continue living in their natural environments. Millions of cubic meters of excavation soil from the project will be used in the port and airport construction and in the closure of the canal.

World giants are interested in the project

The tendering process will commence within the coming weeks, and the mega project worth $10 billion will gradually be put out for tender. The feasibility works of the project has been completed, and it was noted that MWH Global, which built the Panama Canal, is interested in the project along with leading firms from China, Italy and Russia. Six bridges will be built across the canal, which will be 43 km long and 400 meters wide on average. Four of these bridges will be connected to main highway routes.


Due to the high number of areas requiring expropriation, the previous area proposed for the project was amended. Now, the canal will only cross through the districts of Küçükçekmece, Başakşehir and Arnavutköy. The polluted Küçükçekmece Lake will be added to the canal, while the Sazlıdere Dam has been excluded from the scope of the project. Moreover, the shape of Kanal Istanbul will be v-shaped, while the width of the lower part will be 100 meters. The distance between the two lines of the v-shape could reach 520 meters with a depth reaching 25 meters.

Archaeological parks

Forest areas, rivers and river beds will be preserved, and open-air areas will include preserved biodiversity, open-air facilities, recreational areas, small-scale food production and flora consisting of various trees. Archaeological parks will also be built, and a zoo will be constructed close to the forest area as a part of the open-air network.

Upon the instruction of Erdoğan, the buildings will have a maximum of six floors, and taller buildings will be constructed away from the canal. The canal will be built to allow the passage of large vessels. After the completion of the new urban design plan according to the new population, a zoning plan will be issued. The zoning plan process will be conducted by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and BİMTAŞ, which is a company belonging to the municipality.

Maximum six floors

The city to be built around the canal will have a unique silhouette and will be built gradually, starting from villa-type buildings to six-floor housing projects. It was indicated that the tallest buildings will be located away from the canal and open-air areas within the settlement area in the “Analysis of the Number of Floors” and accordingly, the view of the canal from the settlement areas have been maximized. The analysis also stressed that business centers will lie along a north-south direction along the east bank of the canal and that the highest buildings will be grouped around metro stations.

End of traffic in the Bosporus

With the completion of Kanal Istanbul, two peninsulas and one island will be formed. Moreover, the project aims at putting an end to heavy Bosporus shipping traffic. Approximately 150 to 160 vessels will pass through the canal on a daily basis. The project aims to offer easy access to all business centers, industrial areas and workplaces with its multiple-model approach. Bridges will support infrastructure and settlement efficiency, and gain the most benefit out of various public transportation routes. Large intersections and fast train stops are shown in a white circle on the project file submitted to Erdoğan, while local metro and tram stations are marked with a thicker line. Furthermore, these areas link large settlement areas with strategic business centers, and links between all other transportation methods have been shown in the project file.

Details about the Kanal Istanbul Project, an artificial sea-level waterway and a new town to be located across 95 acres of land, have been released, indicating a downsizing of original plans.

It has reportedly been decided that the projected population and the number of bridges in the new town, which are to be established around Kanal Istanbul should be decreased. According to the new details, there will be six bridges and the town’s population is expected to be around 500,000 rather than 1,200,000 as previously estimated. The buildings will be a maximum of six-stories tall.

The urban design project was re-discussed in a meeting in which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and ministries were present. Planning of the new town had been made with the assumption that the population would be 1,200,000. But it was later decided that this number should be halved in order to avoid population density. The new town will be built on either side of Kanal Istanbul, and each side will house 250,000 people.

The dimensions of Kanal Istanbul have also been decided as 400 meters wide, 43 kilometers long and 25 meters deep. The new town will contain conference halls, tourism centers, parks and trade centers, and will reportedly have a silhouette and be built with Anatolian Seljuk Sultanate motifs.

The Kanal Istanbul project was announced by then PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2011 and is to be built on the European side of the city, connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara leading to the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. The project plans on bisecting the current European side of Istanbul, forming an island between the continents of Asia and Europe.

A special planning office will also be set up, to construct an environmentally friendly and modern settlement within the Kanal Istanbul project. A team of scientists, architects, urban planners and sociologists will study the soil and environmental conditions, and after a workshop is held for the plan, preparations for the new city will be completed.

According to protocol between BİMTAŞ (Construction Consultancy affiliated with the Municipality)and the Spatial Planning General Directorate of the Ministry of Environment and Urban Development, the project, which will be built between Küçükçekmece and Arnavutköy districts, will be financed by the ministry.

Construction and zoning plans for the Kanal Istanbul project, an artificial sea-level waterway, and a new town to be located on 95 acres will be issued by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Building permits will be issued after approval by the Ministry of Environment and Town Planning. The ministry has “reserved” an area that is included within the borders of the districts of Avcılar, Bağcılar, Bakırköy, Arnavutköy, Başakşehir, Esenler, Eyüp and Küçükçekmece. The new town’s population is expected to be around 500,000.

The Kanal Istanbul project is to be built on the European side of the city, connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara leading to the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. The project plans on bisecting the current European side of Istanbul, forming an island between the continents of Asia and Europe. The island would have a shoreline on the Black Sea, Sea of Marmara, the new canal and the Bosporus. The new waterway would bypass the current Bosporus. Kanal Istanbul aims to minimize shipping traffic on the Bosporus. The project is intended for the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 2023.

A special planning office will be to construct an environmentally friendly and modern settlement within the Kanal Istanbul project. A team of scientists, architects, urban planners and sociologists will study the soil and environmental conditions, and after a workshop is held for the plan, preparations for the new city will be completed. The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s Urban Planning Directorate requested that authority should be provided to Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş to issue construction plans for the basin of Kanal Istanbul on which the new town will be located. Parliament has accepted the bill, and after the protocol with Topbaş, constructions plans with scales of 1/100,000th, 1/5,000th and 1/1,000,000th will be issued. After the plans are completed and submitted for approval by the ministry, they will be suspended. After the suspension period, the projects can be implemented once the construction plans are obtained.

The area, which was reserved by a decree from Parliament in 2012, will now be transferred to the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. The municipality’s Urban Planning Directorate has submitted a request to the City Council and requested local planning rights that were held by the directorate to be carried out by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality via a protocol.

The construction plans will be prepared by the planning company of the municipality, and at the office to be founded, population, environmental awareness and architectural designs will be developed along with a 1/100,000th scale landscape map. To make the best use of the area, implementation plans will also be issued by the municipality. After the plans are completed and approved, construction permits can be issued. After the ministry and municipality sign the protocol, work on the construction plans can commence. Precautions will be taken to prevent any kind of manipulation in terms of real estate prices.

According to the protocol between BİMTAŞ and the Spatial Planning General Directorate of the Ministry of Environment and Urban Development, the project will be financed by the ministry. The plans will also be submitted for approval by the ministry.

The area was reserved in 2012 in order to build new settlements that can withstand earthquakes by a cooperation protocol between the Ministry of Environment and Urban Development, the Ministry of Transport, Maritime and Communication, the Housing Development Administration and Emlak Konut GYO A.Ş.

The main purpose of the project is to reduce marine traffic through the Bosporus and minimize the risks and dangers particularly associated with tankers. About 56,000 vessels pass yearly through the Bosporus, among them 10,000 tankers carrying 145 million tons of crude oil. International pressure is growing to increase marine traffic tonnage through the Turkish Straits that brings risks for the security of marine navigation during passage. The canal will further help prevent pollution caused by cargo vessels passing through or mooring in the Sea of Marmara before the southern mouth of the Bosporus.

Apparently, the “Kanal Istanbul Project” announced by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the 2011 elections is being prepared. Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım, who undertakes major infrastructure projects, said the preparation work for Kanal Istanbul is coming to an end, “after the final evaluation, construction will begin” and that the project has no contradictory aspects with the Lausanne and Montreux Treaties. (Anadolu Agency, Oct. 9.)

On Saturday, in his speech at Kayışdağ district in Istanbul he delivered on the occasion of the ceremony for new buses for Istanbul, Prime Minister Erdoğan said they were preparing the tender for the giant Kanal Istanbul project and that they were engaged in the effort of finishing it by the end of 2017.

Since the elections, I have been waiting for the news of whether the decision was made or not with the implementation of the Kanal Istanbul project. Officials have announced research has been finalized and the tender file of the project was being prepared.

Now, everybody should think about what they will do! From the scientific community, other than two academics, not many voices were heard on the feasibility of Kanal Istanbul. I read the article and interviews from Cemal Saydam of Hacettepe University and Etham Gönenç from the Civil Engineering Department of Istanbul Technical University.

What the two scientists said could be summarized as such:

  • The salty water that will be brought from the Black Sea through the channel will cause the water in the Marmara Sea to be left without oxygen.
  • Being left without oxygen ends sea life. The entire Marmara and the Bosphorus and its vicinity will smell of hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs). The food balance of the sea, the quality of the water will change. In time, the ecology in the Black Sea will be affected negatively.
  • The underground water sources in the island that will be formed between the Bosphorus and the channel will be filled with salty sea water.
  • Countries bordering the Black Sea and the Mediterranean will not allow this project that is absolutely irreversible.
  • Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım, without mentioning what these scientists were pointing at, only said the project “had nothing to do with the Montreux Convention” and moved on.

The claims of academics are not the kind to be disregarded without any research and with one or two people issuing counter-views. They are pointing out to a situation, a disaster that will develop throughout many years. They are saying, “If you open an artificial channel, that would mean the end of Marmara Sea. Marmara Sea will be destroyed irrevocably. This cannot be made any better but if you insist, it will get worse; it will be totally destroyed.”

Even if what they are saying is not true, without thoroughly convincing the public which view is true, no tender or construction should start.

For the government to say, “We have examined it and we are starting the construction” is equivalent to “Let the people suffer from a nightmare.” How can such a thing happen? Where else in the world you can see an administration deeming their people to a nightmare? While one option is the assurance that “a truly correct work is being done,” the other option should not be preferred, the one that deems millions of people to live with the fear of, “What will happen to us?” The government should facilitate the citizens to understand the matter.

The government should initiate a wide debate where everyone will be able to hear what everybody else is saying. The statements should be published; universities should hold international conferences. The entire population should understand what is being done, should know the views of those who oppose the project and the counterviews to these and be able to express their own views.

Political parties should first examine and find which view is right within their own structure and then publicize their opinions.

The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) Istanbul organization should issue what it is thinking about the Kanal Istanbul project.

What does the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) have to say about the project? What do the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), the Green Party and Left Future Party say? Should it be done or shouldn’t it be done?

Why are the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and district municipalities silent?

Where on earth is such a thing seen, that without the Istanbul Mayor and district mayors and local assemblies having decided separately and later jointly on the matter, in other words without the representatives selected by the people, without them saying “yes” or “no” on behalf of the people, that such an ominous and enormous project be started?

Everybody should determine what they will do if the government opens a tender without creating a wide environment for debate, without the main political parties in Istanbul, the Istanbul Mayor, district mayors and local assemblies issue their independent decisions and justifications; I know what I will do!

Tarhan Erdem is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece was published on Oct. 14. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced in Washington during his speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce while addressing Turkish and American businesspeople that the tender for Kanal Istanbul, the project he defines as the “crazy project,” will be held soon.

According to what the Prime Minister said, Kanal Istanbul, which will be 42 kilometers long with a surface width of 500 meters, will leave the Panama and Suez Canals behind.

Just like the third airport for Istanbul which is planned to be one of world’s biggest…

The Kanal Istanbul project is certainly a crazy project. It will turn a large portion of Istanbul into an island.

There are many who want to use the tones of earth to be excavated while digging the canal to build artificial islands, ports and even airports.

There are rumors that prices of land around the route the canal is said to be built between Küçükçekmece and Yeniköy have literally skyrocketed.

Before the prime minister’s announcement about Kanal Istanbul, we read in the papers the other day that American MWH Global Company, which has undertaken the expansion project of the Panama Canal, has shown interest in the tender.

Turkey Operation Direction Murat Sarıoğlu of the MWH Global Company, which opened an office in Istanbul one year ago, said that the Kanal Istanbul project was a very big one and that it was a risky project regardless of whoever won the tender. Sarıoğlu said, “The canal is a project that has difficulties with regards to production, construction and engineering details.”

I cannot say anything about the construction or engineering aspects but I can say that scientists have objective concerns about the Kanal Istanbul project which will cost 10 billion dollars.

Meteorology and Disaster Management Professor Mikdat Kadıoğlu, in his article written the other day titled, “Kanal Istanbul’s crazy effects,” said the canal may disrupt ecological balances and may dry up the Büyükçekmece and Küçükçekmece lakes.

In the case that settlements are formed around the canal for oversized profits then, Professor Kadıoğlu claimed, just like the Bosphorus now, the same threat of the collision of tank ships will emerge for the canal.

Kadıoğlu also cited an example from the Houston Canal and mentioned the high frequency of those cases of small children living 3.2 kilometers around the canal catching the type of leukemia triggered by air pollution.

Professor Emin Özsoy from the Middle East Technical University’s (ODTÜ) Institute of Marine Sciences, who I had consulted those days when Kanal Istanbul debates erupted, had given similar arguments supporting Kadıoğlu.

According to Professor Özsoy, who has explored the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara for years with the ODTÜ ship, the Turkish straits system was an extremely fragile one both on land and in the sea.

The Istanbul strait’s double direction currents depend on an extremely gentle mechanical balance. In the case that Kanal Istanbul is built, then, according to Professor Özsoy, because of the changes that the Turkish straits system will undergo, the depths of the Sea of Marmara will be left with gradually less oxygen. Fish migration routes will be affected and creatures living at shallow levels will face the risk of being extinct.

With those Mediterranean origin species entering the Black Sea, the Black Sea will be Mediterraneanized and its salt ratio will increase, jeopardizing fishing to a major extent.

Next generations may not be able to know the blue fish, which is called the landlord of the Bosphorus, or the anchovy of the Black Sea.

Those who are planning Kanal Istanbul have to calculate the damages that might be caused to the environment, to the Bosphorus, which is extremely valuable for Istanbul, and most importantly to health.


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