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Story: Istanbul Canal; 25-08-2022;

Why is Türkiye building new Istanbul Canal on Bosphorus?


Istanbul is heart land of the Turkey, and the capital of the country.

Istanbul is the top tourist destination in the country, the city is responsible for more than half of the country's trade.

It carries the tag of being the most populous city in Europe. Its territory lies on two continents Europe and Asia.

The city inhabitants more than 15 million people, nearly every 1 out of 5th Turk lives in Istanbul, the city's population makes it the 7th largest city by population count in Asia.

Why Bosphorus Strait is important? :

The Bosphorus strait is the natural strait in Istanbul which parts the Asia and Europe.

Hence the city is strategically very much valuable to not just to Turkey but for the Asia and for the Europe.

The Bosporus Strait- a major trade route that cut right through the city. Splitting the two sides of the world apart, Asia and Europe, while it joins together the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.

Each year nearly 48,000 vessels passes through the Bosporus strait making it one of the busiest maritime passage in the world, but Turkey, on the other hand, benefits very little off of it.

What is Montreux Convention? :

Turkey collects almost no money from the Bosporus strait, and the reason behind that is the 1936 Montreux convention.

Turkey signed a pact which gave turkey the control over the strait, but in return turkey had to lose the revenue from the strait.

Meaning turkey has to provide a free passage to all Black Sea neighbour vessels, passenger or naval, through Bosporus strait, while it has to restrict the non-black Sea neighbours naval ships from entering the Black Sea.

Such as US naval forces heavily restricted to pass through the Bosporus strait and to enter Black Sea.

But Why to build a new Istanbul Canal when there's already a natural one? :

The Bosphorus strait is hosting free and heavy traffic on the daily basis and is getting congested.

The situation getting dangerous with thousands of civilian boats, cargo ships and naval vessels transmit together through the strait making it prone to any major accidents.

One bad example of dangerous ships near the city area is 2020 Beirut port explosion in Lebanon.

The worsening traffic situation on the strait has prompted the need of alternate path to facilitate the trade.

Vessels have to wait for hours till passage gets clear up, and then they finally pass through the canal and enter the Black Sea.

On an average, more than 14 hours time takes for ships to cross through the strait.

The long delay and heavy traffic are also causing pollution in the Istanbul city.

But wait, there's more behind the new Istanbul canal construction plan:

The Turkey has the alternate canal project from the days of Ottoman Empire, but it never found the opening it required.

First the Ottoman ruler Suleiman the first, tried to build the alternate canal but failed, Then later sultans also tried to work on the canal project, but they failed as well due to various reasons.

Many of the politicians in Turkey's history have called for canal project.

Surprisingly in 2009 then prime minister of Turkey Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan introduced his plans for the Istanbul Canal, the project is heavily referred to as his dream projects.

The project soon after his approval started in April 2009 with 3 phases of built program, with pre-feasibility study conducted for the canal and the routes decided.

In 2012 after passing the feasibility tests and other requirements, government also conducted the next few stages revolving around the environmental safety checks, which were soon passed by the environmentalists.

In March 2021 Turkish government approved the canal development plans, finally enabling the construction to begin for the strait.

Structure, Dimensions & Design:

The diameter of the canal is 45 km long while it is 30 km west to the Bosporus strait.

The canal is 360 meters wide at the surface, while it is 275 meters wide at the bottom with 21 meters of depth. About the same as the Suez Canal.

It would be enough for cargo ships, but not for super containers. The canal proposed to facilitate passage to around 160 to 180 ships a day. It is about the same amount of daily traffic the Bosporus strait hosts daily.

The Istanbul Canal is a part of the comprehensive development program of Turkish government, to boom the construction sector.

The canal is to be a centerpiece of the large development program, alongside its coasts there would be residential and commercial buildings, which would have hosting capacity of around 5,00,000 people.

The two sides of the canal would be linked via underground tunnels, alongside with 10 bridges across the canal. These bridges would be high enough providing room for large container ships to pass beneath them, these bridges would cost around the 1.4 billion dollars.

Additionally, there would be a container port, with numerous Marinas are also part of the plan, while the reclaiming of new land alongside the sea of the Marmara is also in the plan.

The Canal would integrate with a new 14 billion dollar Istanbul international airport and its new “Otoyol 7 motorways” to form a major international logistic hub northwest of the city.

Turkey's Gain from the Canal:

The idea is, the government would collect toll from these ships, in order to provide fast passage, giving easier and time saving passage through the strait.

The new canal would bypass the Montreux convention and turkey would be able to allow non-black Sea neighbors naval ships to enter the Black Sea in return to collect heavy toll from these vessels.

Also, the dangerous container ships would be diverted on the new canal away from the main city center.

Thes e development programs are part of Turkey vision 2023.

The project would help boost Infrastructure and economic condition in the Turkey and will boost the construction sector.

The Canal is estimate to generate revenue of 8 billion dollars annually.

Who is Financing the program:

Turkey government estimates the cost of the canal to be around 15 billion dollar (USD), and would take 7 years to build, around eight to ten thousand jobs would be generated by the canal project.

The Turkish government is powering the project entirely. While there were some speculations that China involved in the construction and that the project would cost much more than the government estimate. Some estimates suggest 4-fold of the sum given by the government would cost, but the government denied any such claims.

Risks & critics:

• The environmentalists around the world has expressed the concerns regarding the potential harm that could result due to the canal construction, to different aspects of the Sea, land, and archaeological sites surrounding the project.

• Risks involving the disruption of the water supply in the city, water flow between the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea. Potential risk of bad smell in the city because of disruption in water flow. Loss of marine life, as well as risk of damaging the fragile archaeological sites, and the forest area in the city.

• Thousands would be displaced due to the construction.

• According to a survey, around 80% of the city population opposed the construction of Istanbul Canal.

• One hundred four, naval officers & admirals signed and open letter to the government opposing the construction of the canal, 10 of which were suspended and arrested just a day after.

• Neighboring country Russia is also opposing the project as it may risk their national security, and security concern in the Black Sea.

• There is another risk that involves low revenue generation due to a free alternative path always being available for ships in the Bosporus strait.

• The government is facing some criticism from around the globe and from the Istanbul City civilians itself. Environmentalists have showed their concerns about the impact that it would put on the city and the sea.

Opening of the Istanbul Canal:

As of March 2021 the construction for the canal has begun.

It would serve as an alternate link between Mediterranean and Marmara sea to the Black Sea.

President of the Turkey said in an interview that it would symbolize the independence and sovereignty of the country from 100 years of treaty, which is coming to an end in 2023.

The canal expected to open on August 2026 the canal is the largest infrastructure project in Turkey history.

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