Since 2011, all of the expert reports on the Kanal Istanbul project say that it will ruin the area’s geography, ecology, fauna and flora, that it will throw off the delicate balance between The Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara. Add to this the almost-certain Istanbul earthquake, and I’m scared. The madness here is beyond me.
Kanal Istanbul would be a new town with a population of 3.5 million. I wonder if you suddenly plant a town next to another town, would they become one, or remain separate? For instance, if you duplicate Ankara, or London, what would happen? And what if you tripled, or quadrupled them?
Now we are debating placing a new Istanbul, a Bosphorus imitation, next to Istanbul. Will we then be living in one town, or in two towns at once? How will this weird set up affect our perception of time and space? Will the town be split because of the distance created, while we try to bridge it back together? How will this affect all of our daily lives?
A few more questions. What will be Kanal Istanbul’s local authority? Will it be connected to Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality? Or will a new municipality be established? Considering the traffic Kanal Istanbul will generate, and keeping in mind that Istanbul is already a metropolitan city, the two together would become way too big to be centrally governed. This makes me think the second option is more likely.
But what really frightens me is the living conditions that will arise from Istanbul, already over overflowing, doubling in size.
A history of Istanbul’s growth and its future
Istanbul has a unique topography. It’s the only city in the world that has a natural strait and where residents have settled on the hills on both sides. This is the landscape that medieval travelers praised, because European towns are built usually on two sides of a river, or on a plain. These settlements do not create the unique scenery that the Bosphorus does.
However, Istanbul’s unique beauty is also its greatest curse. It can’t grow in a circular manner like towns on plains can. When you look at a map, Istanbul is located right where two peninsulas meet on the East-West axis. Today, Istanbul’s limits have reached 30 kilometers from North to South, and over 100 kilometers from East to West. Natural resources, water reserves and agriculture fields are narrowing and being swallowed into oblivion by the city.
As Istanbul grew on both sides of the Bosphorus, it was connected with three bridges and two tunnels. But it’s not enough, it’s spread, leaving no gaps. This is why we can never get rid of traffic, in either direction. When we shouldn’t even be letting it grow anymore, Kanal Istanbul might be the end of this unique city.
When you look at how Istanbul grew since the Middle Ages, you’ll see that it popped up in three spots: The Historic Peninsula, Karaköy-Galata and Kadıköy. The peninsula was for governing, Galata for trade and Kadıköy for residences.
Istanbul maintains these city limits until about the 19th century. When growth does start, it happens with different dynamics, and not in a homogeneous way. Galata grows onto the Bosphorus until Şişli, but maintains a city structure with streets, boulevards and blocks.
Kadıköy and the Historic Peninsula grew East-West thanks to the train stations on both sides, connecting existing “villages” like Bostancı, Erenköy, Bakırköy and Yeşilköy. However the geographical congestion and lack of capital prevented these spots from becoming a garden city. They just became condensed and melted together as they grew.
If Kanal Istanbul becomes a reality, the European side will be severed from Thrace and become an island of 8 million people. While two sides of the canal are filled with luxury residences, the cheap labor needed here will be housed further inland. Meanwhile the canal’s salt water will cut off all natural water sources on the island, ruin the ecological system and destroy agriculture fields. This will lead to Istanbul not being able to feed itself and becoming entirely dependent on external resources.
At this point, we can make a few predictions about the future based on expert reports.
It is thought that the Sea of Marmara will die out with the water that flows through the tunnel. Hydrogen sulfur, meaning rotten egg smell, will be everywhere. Depending on the wind, the Bosphorus will also smell bad occasionally. We all still remember clearly how they used to air fill rates of water reservoirs in dams. Why not add “watch out for rotten egg smell, wear your masks” to the broadcast? All of a sudden, we could all be walking around in masks.
30 million square meters of the 453 million square meter Kanal Istanbul town is expected to be the canal itself. Other areas are 78 million square meters of the airport, 33 million square meters of Ispartakule and Bahçeşehir, 108 square meters of roads, 167 square meters of building plots, 37 million square meters of greenery. There is no guarantee that the designated spaces won’t multiply, or that the designated green areas won’t be absorbed.
The climate will be different in this concrete and asphalt landscape that will emerge: temperatures will rise and winds will stop. Don’t be surprised if extreme heat days replace snow days. This might lead to the birth of an industry for cooling clothing. Oxygen masks could easily find a place in this market too.
Obviously, the biggest problem will be food and water, and all of Anatolia’s crops will flow to Istanbul. However, an unproductive season will mean that the flow will be interrupted. New legislation about construction and development plans might require food and water storage in the basement of apartment buildings. We might even see the emergence of a “food mafia” and a black market for food. At this point, central government might fall short in the face of an Istanbul that’s become a city of crime, and local authorities might form their own armed forces and legislation. And finally, residents of an overflowing Istanbul might desperately leave town. Population might drop quickly to hundred thousands and leave behind a worn city.
Considering how Istanbul was preyed upon for profit, the distopia I built above seems within odds. Turkey’s new ramp project might cause the sudden destruction of a town, or even a country.
I don’t know, what do you guys think about this?