Kanal Istanbul groundwork to be laid this summer, says Erdoğan

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday announced that work would soon begin on the Kanal Istanbul mega waterway project, saying Turkey would push forward with the project despite criticisms.

All preparations have been completed for the project, whose groundbreaking ceremony will be held in the summer, Cumhuriyet newspaper cited Erdoğan as saying.

 Erdoğan announced the Kanal Istanbul project, a 50-kilometre-long canal, which would link the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara through Istanbul. His ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) maintains the waterway will reduce traffic on the busy Bosporus strait by providing a preferable trading route for international shipping companies.

 But there has been strong opposition to the project among professional organisations and NGOs, which maintain that the canal poses a severe risk for the large-scale earthquake expected in Istanbul, will damage the megacity’s last forest areas by encouraging development and harm marine life in the Marmara Sea.

"We will build Kanal Istanbul, whether you like it or not,’’ Erdoğan said, adding that the project would be a new breath of relief for Istanbul and surrounding areas.

The project will be part of a collective whole, with Istanbul’s new airport, metro and bridge, the Turkish president added.

Turkish conglomerates with close ties to Erdoğan and the AKP,  such as Mapa Construction, Cengiz Holding, Kalyon Holding, Kolin Construction, and Limak Holding, are expected to be involved in the project, which is estimated to cost 75 billion lira ($9.2 billion).

Last month, Turkey approved plans to develop the canal project, opening up a debate about the 1936 Montreux Convention, which guarantees the free passage through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits of civilian vessels in times of both peace and war.

On Monday, Turkish police detained 10 retired admirals after a letter signed by 104 of them warned against a possible threat to the convention, following remarks from the government on the matter.