Turkey says foreign firms interested in controversial Kanal İstanbul project

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Turkey's Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Cahit Turhan

Dutch, Belgian and French companies are interested in a massive canal project on the edge of İstanbul, Turkish state media cited Transport Minister Cahit Turhan as saying on Monday, despite the opposition’s strong criticism of the project, according to Reuters.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) say the 45 kilometer (28 mile) Kanal İstanbul, which should be completed in 2026 and will link the Black and Marmara seas, aims to ease traffic and prevent accidents along the nearby Bosporus Strait.

İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, along with environmentalists and urban planners, says the canal fringing Istanbul will turn the city of 15 million people into a “construction site” for years and destroy ecosystems vital for marine animals and migratory birds.

On Monday Turhan said Turkey would initially earn $1 billion annually from ships passing through the canal, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. He did not provide further details on the international companies he said were interested.

“When in time 50,000 ships pass through the canal, we will earn annual revenue of $5 billion,” Turhan said, adding that the canal would have up to three times the capacity of the Bosporus, or 68,000 vessels a year, which also links the Marmara and Black seas.

Turhan also said the canal would cost a total of $15 billion, with construction costs of around $10 billion.

İmamoğlu has said the project would be difficult to finance, wreak environmental havoc and paralyze life in Turkey’s biggest city while under construction. Erdoğan, however, has said the project will go ahead “whether they like it or not.”

Kanal İstanbul is one of the most ambitious of the mega-infrastructure plans undertaken in Erdoğan’s 17-year rule and has drawn criticism from environmentalists, petitioning citizens and the city’s mayor.

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