The Istanbul Canal is considered a prestigious project by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The 45-kilometer-long artificial sea route is supposed to run across the metropolis and connect the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea. Now the gigantic construction project is being tested between Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu and Erdogan.
Imamoglu sharply criticized the project on Wednesday in a speech that was broadcast nationwide and lasted around an hour and a half. „Why are we seeing a disaster with our eyes?“ Asked Imamoglu and called the project a „betrayal of Istanbul“. The mayor of the city of millions spoke among other things of the destruction of a good part of the city’s underground and above-ground water resources as well as of millions of square meters of forest and agricultural areas.
He warned that eight million people would be trapped in the earthquake-prone city on an emerging island between the Bosphorus and the new canal. In addition, the channel will cost not only the government but also the city billions of lira.
Not the first foray
In the Ottoman Empire, efforts had already been made to dig a waterway parallel to the Bosphorus. Corresponding plans were also rolled over in the 1990s – for example by the former CHP politician and Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit. Erdogan, once himself the mayor of the metropolis, finally announced the construction of the Istanbul Canal in 2011. „We’re rolling up our sleeves for the Istanbul Canal, one of the biggest projects of the century,“ Erdogan said at the time.
The artificial sea route is to run west of the Bosphorus Strait and open in 2023 to mark Turkey’s 100th birthday. It is said to be about 150 meters wide and 25 meters deep. 160 cargo ships and tankers are supposed to pass through it every day and thus relieve the Bosphorus. Imamoglu also addressed this argument in his speech. Shipping on the Bosphorus has decreased in the past ten years, the mayor said.
Just a few days ago, Erdogan announced that the tenders would begin soon. The Ministry of the Environment and Urban Development had approved the environmental impact assessment on Monday. On the same day, Imamoglu announced a „collaboration protocol“ signed before his time on the channel.
“Black hole” in the city cash desk
Istanbul’s mayor is currently not only in the Istanbul Canal crossover with Erdogan and the ruling party AKP. In a press conference on the occasion of his first six months in office, Imamoglu sharply criticized his predecessors from the AKP on Monday.
„When we took office on June 26, we took a black hole in the community totaling 14 billion lira (about 2.1 billion euros),“ he said. There was not even enough money to pay the employees‘ salaries.
On June 23, the CHP politician conquered the post of mayor of the largest city in Turkey in an internationally vigilant repetition of the local election – after decades of AKP rule in Istanbul.
No loans from state banks
Another point of contention between Imamoglu and Erdogan is money. Istanbul’s mayor said in November that the „doors of the state banks“ are currently „totally blocked“ for the city administration. Even routine loans for everyday needs no longer existed after the election.
State banks showed the same attitude towards other cities ruled by the opposition, Imamoglu said. That is why his team decided to „borrow from some private Turkish and some foreign lenders“. Deutsche Bank, for example, granted Istanbul a loan of 110 million euros.