Istanbul mayor suggests referendum for canal project

Ekrem İmamoğlu, the mayor of Istanbul, said on Friday that people living Turkey’s largest city should have a say on plans to build an artificial waterway to circumvent the Bosporus Straits, Duvar news site reported.

Kanal Istanbul, one of the mega projects of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has been strongly criticised by environmentalists due to the extensive and irreversible harm it will cause if built.

The project last month sparked a row between İmamoğlu and Erdoğan, while more than 100,000 people officially appealed the environmental impact assessment report of the project.

Authorities should trust the people and ask their opinion when starting large-scale projects, İmamoğlu said during a training event in Istanbul. 

“Kanal Istanbul has been discussed in recent days. Yes, it is a very important decision,” the mayor said. “You are changing the land, the flow of waters, the roads, the bridges, the infrastructure. Is this a priority for this city,” İmamoğlu asked. 

“For example, what is the problem with asking those questions to people,” he said. 

The mayor, who defeated the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate in local polls last year, also said last month that a referendum over Kanal Istanbul was an option.