Turkey will soon hold a tender for a huge canal on the edge of Istanbul and lay the groundwork for it in the summer, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on April 7, despite nationwide protest against the mass construction.
"We have mostly completed preparations for Kanal Istanbul, our country's biggest and most strategic infrastructure project," the president said.
The Kanal Istanbul project will connect the Black Sea north of Istanbul to the Marmara Sea to the south and is estimated to cost 75 billion lira ($9.2 billion).
The government says it will ease traffic on the Bosphorus Strait and prevent accidents, but critics have said it will wreak environmental havoc and pollute fresh water resources. Turkey approved development plans for the project last month.
Speaking to lawmakers from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Erdoğan said Turkey would push on with the plan "whether you like it or not," referring to criticism from opposition parties and other opponents, and added the canal would be a "new windpipe" for the region.
Erdoğan said that the project's environmental impact assessment report was completed with the participation of not just the public, but also scientists, even though the overwhelming consensus among the public was that the project would be practically devastating for the city.
The president noted that as many as 500,000 people were eventually expected to reside on the banks of the canal and the area surrounding it, even though experts have warned against overcrowding in the metropolis.
The 45-kilometer canal will be a breath of fresh air to the area, Erdoğan said, even though the canal is mostly expected to destroy natural resources in the area, along with the local flora and fauna.
The rich get richer
One of the arguments to counter the Kanal Istanbul project is the idea that the entire construction design is a ploy to generate profit for pro-government entities, namely companies that are close to Ankara.
Yeniçağ author Murat Ağırel reported on April 6 that there had been hundreds of ownership transfers among the lots surrounding the canal route and that many of the novel investors were foreign nationals.
Ağırel reported on April 7 that there were indeed numerous names on the proprietors' list who had close professional or personal ties to the president.
Businessman Aziz Torun reportedly bought lots off of the Kanal Istanbul route in 2013, shortly after the president announced the project in 2011. Torun also happens to be a former classmate of the president.
Businessman Eyüp Akdağ, known for his lobbying in favor of extensive mining projects, also bought land off of the route, Ağırel reported, along with former minister Erdoğan Bayraktar.