Turkey to start construction of Canal İstanbul next year, despite criticism

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Turkey plans to launch the construction of artificial sea-level waterway Canal İstanbul in 2019, the transport and infrastructure minister said on Thursday, despite criticism of the project.

“Construction of Canal Istanbul should not be delayed till 2020, so we hopefully will start it in 2019,” Cahit Turhan said on the Anadolu news agency’s “Editor’s Desk” program.

Turhan said 10 bridges are planned to be built as part of the Canal Istanbul project — an artificial sea-level waterway that will connect the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Mediterranean.

It is scheduled to be completed by 2023.

The planned canal is meant to provide relief to shipping traffic between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, particularly oil tankers passing through the Bosporus.

The 45-kilometer (nearly 28 miles) canal is to boast a capacity of 160 vessels a day.

Critics argue that the project will adversely affect the environment and put İstanbul’s water supply in danger.

Today, around 40 percent of İstanbul’s water comes from the European side of the city, which, even according to the government’s own environmental assessments, will be severely impacted by the canal and new airport that was opened last month, according to National Geographic.

The Sazlıdere reservoir, located in the northwestern part of the city, will be entirely uprooted, and smaller streams and underground water tables that feed at least three other lakes in the area could end up being disrupted.

Another implication of the canal concerns the passage of war vessels into the Black Sea, which was limited by the Montreux Convention, signed in 1936.

Then-Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım announced in January that Canal İstanbul would not be subject to the convention.

A report in the South China Morning Post in June implied that the canal project could trigger an arms race in the Black Sea, which would displease Russia.

The total budget of the project is around $20 billion.

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