Roundup: Canal project divides Turks over environmental, financial issues

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ISTANBUL, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- Discussions about the construction of an artificial waterway, which would divide Turkey's most populous city Istanbul, have lately polarized the Turkish society over its environmental and financial impacts.

Canal Istanbul was first brought out by then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2011 as a "crazy project" with a view to easing the heavy traffic of the 30-km-long Bosphorus Strait, one of the world's busiest waterways that divides the Asian and European parts of Istanbul.

Later, the plan was put on hold due to a heavy agenda of the country filled with political tensions, both inside and outside of national borders, a high cost of living and a rising unemployment rate.

When President Erdogan last week announced in a televised interview that his government would initiate the project as soon as possible with a tender, it became a hot-button issue in the country.

According to the plan, the canal will be approximately 45-km long on the European side of the city, starting from the Black Sea and ending off the Marmara Sea. It will cover an area of 26,000 hectares, with seven highway bridges, two railway and two metro crossings planned over the waterway.

Ekrem Imamoglu, mayor of Istanbul, described the project as an "erroneous and unnecessary" imposition on the people of the metropolis.

Most of the environmentalists are also opposing the project on the grounds that it could trigger a strong tremor, as it would destroy the natural tissue of the city.

Geologists have long been expecting a strong earthquake to hit Istanbul in the fault line passing under the Marmara Sea.

For Naci Gorur, a specialist in sedimentology and marine geology, there will be an excessive dislocation of soil and excessive landslides and collapses depending on the earth's properties, during the excavation of the canal.

He posted a series of tweets about the potential negative impacts of the project, calling on the authorities to give it up.

"In the case of a big Istanbul earthquake, the Marmara mouth of the canal would be affected by 9-10 magnitude of tremor, which would cause severe destruction," Gorur tweeted.

In his view, the artificial waterway will also jeopardize disaster management in the city, disrupting fire and rescue works and health services.

"Additionally, it will destroy the underground and surface water and dams along its route," Gorur cautioned.

"It will annihilate an estimated 135 million square meters of agricultural land and has no reasonable basis," Imamoglu remarked. "We will never follow an idea that is not backed by reason and science and the people of this city. Canal Istanbul is a subject of science and not of politics."

Claiming that the project would cost as much as 13 billion U.S. dollars, the mayor said, "How many attraction centers can we establish in the country with this money? Think about these. How many factories and schools can we build?"

Turkish Minister of Environment and Urbanization Murat Kurum recently said that the project would relief the shipping traffic of the Bosphorus and reduce accidents.

Kurum noted that six big accidents occurred on the Bosphorus since the 1960s, killing 100 people and causing the leakage of 108,000 tons of oil into the strait.

"We see Canal Istanbul as a very significant project for the future of our country with its coastal structures, marinas, container ports and logistics centers," the minister said, adding the project would be carried out with "the highest-level environmental sensitivity." Enditem

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