Opposition mayor says Istanbul Canal to cost Turkey $100 billion in taxes

The Turkish government’s Istanbul Canal project, a shipping canal project designed to bypass Istanbul’s Bosporus waterway, will result in astronomical construction and expropriation costs while placing a $100 billion tax cost on the population, the opposition mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu said.

The main opposition Republican People’s party dubbed the Istanbul Canal the “betrayal project,” in a series of Twitter posts on Saturday, saying Turkey was effectively “digging a ditch it would fall into,’’ through the project.  

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) says the 50-kilometre-long Istanbul Canal, which would link the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara through Istanbul, will reduce traffic on the busy Bosporus strait by providing a preferable trading route for international shipping companies.

But critics of the project, estimated to cost 75 billion lira ($11.6 billion), say the AKP is risking irreversible ecological damage in an attempt to reinvigorate the stuttering construction sector and provide cash for its allies and clients.

The damage caused by the canal will not remain limited to Istanbul and the project will negatively affect Turkey’s economy, politics and environment,  İmamoğlu said.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced plans for the project in 2011 before he was elected prime minister for a third term, but his government has failed to start the artificial waterway project in the nine years that followed.

İmamoğlu has been a vocal critic of the Istanbul Canal and last month shared a petition on Twitter, calling for the 16 million residents of Turkey's largest city to object to the contentious project.