Chinese companies interested in Turkish president's canal project

(Corrects cost of project in fourth paragraph to "billions" from "millions")

Chinese investors are interested in taking over a projected planned by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to build a shipping canal bypassing the Bosporus waterway in Istanbul, journalist Deniz Zeyrek said on Monday in an article for Sözcü.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan first introduced the Kanal Istanbul project in 2011. The planned 45-kilometre man-made waterway on the European side of Istanbul that would cut a new link between the Black Sea and Sea of Marmara has generated much media attention, but little has been done to materialise the project since it was announced.

Companies from China have shown interest in Kanal Istanbul project as almost none of the Turkish companies are able to shoulder the financial burden due to the country's slumping economy, Zeyrek said.

The project has gained currency once again after the Transport and Infrastructure Ministry published a report stating that the project will take seven years and cost 75 billion liras ($13 billion), Zeyrek said.

Erdoğan has repeatedly endorsed China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a project to reinvigorate ancient Silk Road trade links across Asia to Europe and Africa announced in 2013, and called on Chinese companies to invest in Turkey.

However, Kanal Istanbul has received diverse and strident objections from environmentalists and economists who say it could seriously damage Turkey’s most populous city. Geology professor Naci Gürer on Sunday said an earthquake would have severe consequences for parts of the project close to Sea of Marmara, according to Turkish news site Artı Gerçek.

Seismologists have said recent seismic activity shows that a major tremor is imminent near Istanbul. Two earthquakes have struck Istanbul in recent months without causing serious damage, but Kanal Istanbul would risk being hit by an earthquake with 9 or 10-magnitude tremors, Gürer said.

In 1999, an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale killed more than 17,000 people and left half a million people homeless in Istanbul and neighbouring cities of Kocaeli, Gölcük and Izmit, lying around the Sea of Marmara.