The huge canal on the edge of Istanbul linking the Black Sea to the Mediterranean will help strengthen Turkey’s hand in the global arena and boost its activity, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoğlu said Monday, once again rebuffing critics of the waterway project.
“Kanal Istanbul is a strategic issue above everyday politics and is a must for Turkey’s future,” Karaismailoğlu told reporters in Istanbul.
“With Kanal Istanbul, Turkey will further increase its power and effectiveness in the world.”
Turkey is pressing ahead with the project and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week said they would push on with the plan “whether you like it or not,” referring to criticism from opposition parties and other opponents over its cost and environmental impact, and added that the canal would be a “new windpipe” for the region.
A tender for the canal will be held soon, the president said. The groundwork for the project will be laid in the summer, he noted.
The Kanal Istanbul project will connect the Black Sea north of Istanbul to the Marmara Sea to the south and is estimated to cost over TL 75 billion ($9.2 billion).
The government says it will ease traffic on the Bosporus Strait, one of the world’s busiest maritime passages, and prevent accidents similar to those in previous years and the recent incident on Egypt’s Suez Canal, where a giant container ship became lodged and blocked the channel for almost a week.
Karaismailoğlu described the canal as an ideal waterway that has been designed to circumvent potential problems, calling it a visionary logistical project.
First announced a decade ago, Kanal Istanbul intends to stem the risk posed by ships carrying dangerous goods via the Bosporus, especially oil tankers.
Critics have challenged the need for the waterway, saying it could affect Istanbul’s natural habitat and water resources.
The number of ships passing through the Bosporus has dropped over the last decade, yet the size of the vessels and their loads have increased significantly.
The government has long drawn attention to the heavy traffic in the Bosporus Strait and the extended waiting times in Istanbul to use the passage.
Karaismailoğlu has said that ships today wait close to 14 hours on average to pass, a figure that could rise to as much as 48 hours in the coming years.
The 45-kilometer (27.96-mile) canal will be built in Istanbul’s Küçükçekmece-Sazlıdere-Durusu corridor.
It is estimated to boast a capacity of 160 vessels a day and is expected to generate significant economic value by reducing transit periods and costs, in addition to passage fees.
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