Turkish President and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said his government is prepared to move forward with the construction of Kanal İstanbul, an artificial waterway in İstanbul, and that the project is ready to be put out to bid.
“The engineering design of the project is complete, as are all the technical details. The project is now ready to be put out to bid,” Erdoğan told reporters on Friday.
Kanal İstanbul, which Erdoğan dubbed his “crazy project,” will bisect the European side of İstanbul to connect the Black Sea to the Marmara and Mediterranean seas. It is scheduled to be completed by 2023; however, there is widespread public opposition to its construction due to environmental and financial concerns.
“With Kanal İstanbul, Turkey will gain more power,” he said.
The AKP government and Erdoğan claim the channel is necessary for the safety of İstanbul’s Bosporus Strait, which sees busy marine traffic; however, opponents of the project say it is aimed at generating money for pro-AKP circles.
Among the opponents of the project is İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, who is from the Republican People’s Party (CHP). İmamoğlu is currently facing an investigation by the Interior Ministry due to his opposition to the construction of Kanal İstanbul.
İmamoğlu is being investigated for erecting billboards across İstanbul that said, “Either Kanal or İstanbul? Who needs Kanal İstanbul?” according to a statement from the Interior Ministry.