Turkey’s Transport and Infrastructure Ministry has said that the controversial Kanal Istanbul project will start “at the most reasonable time.”
The daily BirGün asked the ministry “when will the Kanal Istanbul project start and when will its tender be held?” via Turkey's Presidential Communications Center (CİMER).
In response, the ministry said that “We continue to work in coordination with other relevant public institutions and organizations regarding the Kanal Istanbul Project. We aim to hold the tender and start the construction of Kanal Istanbul in the most reasonable time together with the necessary studies," without giving any detailed information.
The project will cost 20 billion dollars, according to the ministry.
The government says Kanal Istanbul, a canal project which aims to connect the Black Sea north of Istanbul to the Marmara Sea to the south, will ease shipping traffic on the Bosphorus Strait, one of the world's busiest maritime passages, and prevent accidents similar to that this week on the Suez Canal, where work is continuing to refloat a giant container ship blocking the channel.
But like other major infrastructure projects undertaken during President Rece Tayyip Erdoğan's 20-year rule, the canal has drawn criticism from those who say it will wreak environmental havoc and pollute freshwater resources around the city of 18 million people.
The government says it is increasingly hazardous for tankers to wind their way between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea down the congested Bosphorus, which divides the European and Asian halves of Istanbul.
Already 43,000 ships pass through every year, far more than the 25,000 the government considers safe, causing longer and longer waiting times. By 2050, it is estimated that the number will rise to 78,000.
Nevertheless, a survey suggests most citizens oppose the project, as does Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), to which he belongs. Critics say it would destroy a marine ecosystem and endanger some of the city's freshwater supply.