Turkish government approves zoning plan for Kanal Istanbul

The Turkish Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation on Saturday approved the zoning plan of the Kanal Istanbul, a shipping canal project designed to bypass Istanbul’s Bosporus waterway, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.

The ministry has evaluated objections to the project “from our citizens, municipalities and public institutions’’ and approved the zoning plans for the project, the newspaper cited Environment and Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum as saying.

Announced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2011, the planned 45-kilometre, $25 billion waterway linking the Marmara and Black seas, running parallel to the Bosphorus, has been met with strong opposition.

Professional organisations, NGOs and the new opposition mayor of Istanbul maintain that the canal poses a severe risk for the largescale earthquake expected in Istanbul and will damage the megacity’s last forest areas by encouraging development and harm marine life in the Marmara Sea.

Moreover, Turkish opposition groups claim that the government introduced the project to boost pro-government business ventures.

Meanwhile, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Istanbul lawmaker Gürsel Tekin slammed the green lighting for the controversial project.

“Istanbul has been faced with the biggest corruption case in its history”, Tekin said on Twitter.

“Totally contrary to the zoning practice, the zoning plan was approved behind closed doors, without taking the opinions of any institutions, non-governmental organizations, trade associations, and without discussing in the Istanbul municipality commissions and assembly,” he added.

Turkey’s Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry will undertake financial liability for companies to run the project, according to a legal amendment announced in the Official Gazette earlier this month.