Kanal Istanbul’s zoning plan approved, tender to be launched this year - minister

The zoning plan for a shipping canal project designed to bypass Istanbul’s Bosporus Strait has been approved and the tender for the project will be launched later this year, Turkish Transport and Infrastructure Minister Cahit Turhan said on Tuesday.

Construction of the Kanal Istanbul, an estimated $15 billion project that will create a second connection between the Black and Marmara seas, is set to begin, state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Turhan as saying.

“We have arrived at the stage of holding a tender for Kanal Istanbul. We will launch the tender for the project, and construction work will start this year,” the minister said during a press conference in capital Ankara.

“A number of international companies and credit agencies have expressed interest in Kanal Istanbul, both through official letters or verbally,’’ Turhan said, adding, “Firms from Russia, China, the Netherlands and Belgium are interested in the project’’.

The minister’s statements arrive as strong opposition to the project continues, with professional organisations and NGOs maintaining that the canal would damage the megacity’s last forest areas by encouraging development and harm marine life in the Marmara Sea. Experts also believe Kanal Istanbul poses a severe risk for the large-scale earthquake expected in Turkey’s largest city of 17 million.

Istanbul’s opposition mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu is among the most vocal critics of the project and has been in row over Kanal Istanbul with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who first announced the idea in 2011 and is determined to push forward with it. 

“We will protect the Istanbul Strait from accidents and dangerous shipments. We will keep the Istanbul Strait open to sea traffic but provide an alternative to it,” minister Turhan said.