Turkey’s Ministry of Environment and Urbanization has approved the environmental impact assessment report (ÇED) for the Kanal İstanbul project, an artificial sea-level waterway bisecting the European side of İstanbul to connect the Black Sea to the Marmara and Mediterranean seas, according to Turkish media reports.
The ministry’s move came despite growing public opposition to the construction of the channel, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dubbed his “crazy project.”
After the ministry received the ÇED report on Dec. 23, thousands of İstanbulites formed long queues in front of provincial urbanization offices to sign petitions against the realization of the project. The city’s mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu, from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), is also strongly against the project.
Erdoğan has repeatedly said the construction would go ahead despite any opposition. He says the canal is needed to ease traffic on the Bosporus and protect its historic structures, calling it “environmental salvation.”
He first mentioned the idea in 2011, but a currency crisis in 2018 prompted Turkey to freeze investments in large projects.
Kanal İstanbul returned to the president’s agenda in November.
Opponents of the project and environmental groups say the construction will cost too much and wreak environmental havoc.