Turkey's Urbanization and Environment Minister Murat Kurum has said that the government will proceed with the controversial Kanal Istanbul project as planned.
“It is out of the question that we have given up on the [Kanal Istanbul] project. A planning process needs to be undertaken right now; the environmental assessment process is advancing. In this framework, the process is ongoing. There is no disruption, problem in any way,” Kurum told reporters in parliament on Nov. 20, when asked if the government had given up on the project.
Environment and Urbanization Ministry earlier this year approved the environmental impact report (ÇED) for the controversial project, an artificial waterway to be built in Istanbul.
The project aims to connect the Black Sea north of Istanbul with the Marmara Sea to the south and is estimated to cost $11.6 billion. The government says it will ease shipping traffic on the Boshphorus Strait and prevent accidents there.
The project, which was effectively on hold after a currency crisis in 2018 drove the economy into recession, came back on the agenda in December of 2019, leading to heated exchanges between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, a member of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).
Earlier this week, the Interior Ministry launched an investigation into İmamoğlu on the grounds that he had banners placed around Istanbul that read "Either it's the Kanal or Istanbul." The ministry said that the mayor is accused of illegally spending public money on the relevant banners. It said that the allocation of such money "is against the integrity of the management and law."
İmamoğlu commented on the investigation saying that he does not consider Kanal Istanbul as a "state project." Asked what he thought about the ministry's allegations that public resources had been used illegally to prepare posters against Kanal Istanbul project, İmamoğlu said: "We are undertaking urban transformation using public resources. We applaud things that are good."