Turkish ministry says president’s canal project will cut water to most of Istanbul

Turkey’s Ministry of Forest and Water Management has warned that a project championed by the country’s president to build a canal around Istanbul could cut much of the city’s water supply, secularist daily Cumhuriyet reported on Friday.

The ministry’s environmental assessment report on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Canal Istanbul project said it would decommission large parts of Istanbul’s water supply system, causing an annual loss of 427 million cubic metres of drinking water, said Cumhuriyet.

Ahead of the 2011 general elections, Erdoğan vowed to build a 45-kilometre canal on the European side of the city linking the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea. The canal project has remained on the agenda since then, drawing heavy criticism due to its environmental and social costs, but construction has still not started. 

According to the plans, the canal will start from Küçükçekmece Lake on the southwest of Istanbul and reach the Black Sea through the Sazlıdere Dam from east of the Terkos Lake, which supplies approximately 20 percent of Istanbul's total water demand.

The environmental assessment report said the proposed route would prevent the use of water sources from Terkos lake and the Sazlıdere dam and water supply lines between Terkos and Kağıthane.

The ministry asked the authorities to take measures since the proposed route might severely deplete Istanbul’s drinking water supplies. The annual losses estimated in the report amount to 140 million cubic metres of water supplied from Terkos Lake, 235 million cubic metres from Yıldız (Istranca) Mountains in northwest Turkey and 52 million cubic metres from the Sazlıdere dam. 

The ministry said that, despite land surveys saying otherwise, the canal could cause sea water to seep into drinking water sources. 

“It should be taken into account that sea water could seep into Terkos Lake through cracks and breakages after water is pumped into the canal, that Terkos lake could be deactivated as a water source and that the majority of Istanbul could be left without water,” the ministry said.