People in Istanbul mobilise to officially appeal Erdoğan’s canal project

Residents of Istanbul are rushing to use their right to submit appeals on the environmental impact assessment report of the Kanal Istanbul project, an artificial waterway the government plans to build in Istanbul to circumvent the Bosporus, Turkish daily Sözcü reported on Thursday.

The Istanbul Provincial Directorate of Environment and Urbanisation started accepting appeals on the report two days ago. Istanbulites have eight days left to submit their opinions about the controversial project, which over the last week sparked a row between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Istanbul’s mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu.

The mayor called on the people of Istanbul on Wednesday to use their right to appeal for Kanal Istanbul, which is also known as one of the “crazy” projects of Erdoğan.

The Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects has prepared a sample appeal document to help people who want to object to the $10-billion canal project.

Erdoğan says the canal, which is estimated to stretch 45 to 50 km from the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea, is needed to divert dangerous maritime transport from the Bosporus. Completion was originally planned for 2023, Turkey’s centenary.

“I do not want to be left without water,” said Hülya Kobaneri, a resident of Istanbul who submitted her appeal against the canal project, which may impact Istanbul’s groundwaters according to environmentalists.

“I am concerned that the Montreux Convention will be cancelled,” she continued. The Montreux Convention of 1936 places the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits fully under Turkish control, but also guarantees the passage of civilian vessels in peacetime.

“I am afraid of Arabisation,” Kobaneri said referring to reports in the media that investors from Gulf countries have flocked to Istanbul to buy land along the path of the announced Kanal Istanbul route. 

“It is very dangerous for our future. Not only for people, there is the risk of extinction for all living creatures,” said Gülseren Güler, another Istanbulite that opposes the project. Professional organisations and environmental activists say the project may lead to pollution in the Marmara Sea.

“We are living in an earthquake area and I think it will trigger earthquakes. I am afraid,” said Güler.