Turkey will hold a tender for the construction of a 45-kilometer shipping canal running parallel to the Bosporus, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday, despite a government freeze on new investments as it reins in spending, Reuters reported.
“Kanal İstanbul has been delayed for far too long. We will hold a tender for it in 2019 and start the process [of building it],” Erdoğan told a meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara.
Earlier this year, Erdoğan had said his government would not consider new investments, casting doubt on the $16 billion plan.
Critics argue that the project would 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 Kanal 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.