Erdoğan’s Istanbul Canal to cost $15 billion

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s project to build a canal in Istanbul will cost around $15 billion, according to the nation’s transport minister.

“We will break the ground for the first bridge by the end of June,” Adil Karaismailoglu, minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, told state-run TRT on Friday. The six bridges spanning the canal will cost $1.4 billion, the minister said.

Erdoğan’s son-in-law, and former finance minister Berat Albayrak has purchased a large plot of land on the site projected for the project. Others close to Erdoğan expect to profit from the project.

The 45-kilometer (28-mile) Canal Istanbul, which will link the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara, The waterway is projected to create a city with a population of half a million.

“The creation of a new passage linking the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea raises significant questions of international law, since the Bosporus strait is considered a crucial strategic waterway by many neighbouring states, particularly those with coastlines on the Black Sea,” writes Former Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay.

“Since 1936, the straits have been subject to the Montreux Convention, a regime that places the Bosporus and Dardanelles fully under Turkish control, but also guarantees the passage of civilian vessels in peacetime.”

The convention gives Turkey a privileged position in the management of the straits. But it also grants commercial vessels the right of free passage through them in most circumstances, according to Günay.

“A new waterway could raise objections from Black Sea states since it could call into question the Montreux Convention’s continued validity. Of primary concern would be whether the convention’s restrictions on non-Black Sea states still apply, or whether Turkey can govern the canal as it pleases.”

This has already lead to serious disputes with Russia, and could create trouble for Turkey’s nearest neighbours, making the Black Sea a focal point for conflict.

Erdogan has said Turkey won’t exit the treaty but sees the Canal Istanbul as an alternative to it as the project will enhance the government’s control of shipping to and from the Black Sea. Opposition parties say commercial ships can’t be forced to take the alternative route and the canal would hit taxpayers and the environment.

Then there are ecological concerns. The canal would “annihilate” water resources for Istanbul’s 16 million residents, ruin the province’s nature beyond repair and make it uninhabitable, according to Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor of the nation’s largest city. Erdogan’s government has brushed off such concerns.

The canal would “annihilate” water resources for Istanbul’s 16 million residents, ruin the province’s nature beyond repair and make it uninhabitable, according to Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor of the nation’s largest city. Erdogan’s government has brushed off such concerns.