Scores of Istanbulites sign petitions opposing Erdogan’s mega canal project

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans to construct a canal on the edge of Istanbul have been met with opposition by hundreds of Istanbulites who have signed petitions citing environmental concerns against the mega project, the T24 news portal said in a report.

Scores of people in Istanbul have reportedly flocked to provincial urbanization offices since Thursday to file petitions objecting to an environmental impact assessment (CED) report on the canal.

The petitions were submitted after Turkish authorities recently called on citizens to state their objections to the CED report by January 2 next year.

The CED report has been criticized for failing to address all the problems the canal project could cause.

The Canal Istanbul project that is scheduled to be completed in seven years includes a 45-km (28-mile) artificial sea-level waterway on the city’s western fringes that would connect the Black Sea to the north and the Marmara Sea to the south.

After effectively pausing the project due to the economic recession last year, Erdogan has put building the canal which is estimated to cost 75 billion lira ($12.6 billion), atop his domestic agenda again in recent weeks.

Erdogan holds forth that the canal is necessary to ease traffic on the natural Bosphorus strait, one of the world’s busiest waterways, and protect its historic structures, describing it as “environmental salvation”.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, opposition lawmakers, some environmentalists, architects, and citizens, however, have argued that the project would lead to a number of significant environmental problems.

Reuters on Friday quoted Ahmet Kara, a 32-year old computer technician standing outside an office in Istanbul’s Besiktas neighborhood, as saying that he fears the effects Canal Istanbul would have on Istanbul’s water supply.

Gulcan Erdogan Boyraz, a 56-year old former college instructor, was also cited by Reuters as saying on Friday that the project was aimed at profiteering and would destroy Istanbul’s future.

According to the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB), the proposed canal would run through a lagoon whose ecosystem, vital for marine animals and migratory birds would be destroyed.

The Istanbul Bar Association has also filed a three-page-long petition against the Canal Istanbul project, according to a report by the Gazete Duvar news portal on Friday.

The lawyers, who listed as many as 13 reasons for opposing the construction of the canal, criticized the CED report on the project for not including assessments to avert negative environmental effects it would have on the city.

Indicating that the project is planned to be constructed along Istanbul’s seismic zones, the lawyers argued in the petition that a possible earthquake triggered by the canal would kill a great number of people in the city.

They also stated that the completion of the canal would require uprooting the Sazlidere Dam, one of Istanbul’s main water sources which provides 29 percent of the city’s water demand.

“The construction would destroy a number of natural and archeological sites, natural parks, national parks and wetlands,” the association further underlined.

President Erdogan has repeatedly said the construction of his dream project would go ahead despite opposition to it.

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