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Turkey approves plans for controversial Istanbul canal Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff

Turkey approves plans for controversial Istanbul canal

The canal has an estimated cost of more than $9 billion [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 March, 2021

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The canal will help prevent Suez-like accidents, Environment Minister Murat Kurum said.
Turkey has approved development plans for a huge canal in Istanbul, Environment Minister Murat Kurum said on Saturday despite continued objections from environmental campaigners and oppositon figures.

The Kanal Istanbul project will ease pressure on the Bosphorus strait and help prevent accidents such as the ship-blockage at the Suez Canal this week, Kurum claimed.

The $9.2-billion mega-project was first proposed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2011 but not officially approved by the environment ministry until last year.

The 28-mile long canal will effectively make large parts of Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, into an island.

It is intended as an alternative to the Bosphorus, one of the world's busiest shipping routes.

The Bosphorus strait carries three times more ships annually than the Suez Canal.

But the proposal has been the target of much opposition from environmental campaigners who claim the canal will deplete and pollute Istanbul's water resources.

Environmentalists also say the canal will deprive Istanbul of vital green space and cause overcrowding in the already densely populated city, while oceanographers have raised fears the canal could cause disaster by depleting oxygen levels in the Marmara Sea.

Opposition politicians and groups have also criticised the costly project.

Ekrem Imamoglu, the opposition mayor of Istanbul, has been one of the harshest critics, calling the decision to green-light the project during the coronavirus pandemic "mind-boggling".

The billions used to finance the canal could better be spent in preparing earthquake-prone Istanbul for future quakes, Imamoglu has said.

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