Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan was on hand this Saturday as construction of the Kanal Istanbul got underway, one of the largest infrastructure projects seen in Europe for many years.
The long-planned 45 km canal linking the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara will serve as an alternative to the increasingly congested Bosporus Strait. It is projected to cost $15bn to complete.
The waterway will be located on the west of the city centre on the European side of Istanbul with a capacity of 160 vessel transits a day.
“We view Kanal Istanbul as a project to save Istanbul’s future,” Erdogan told a ceremony. “We are opening a new page in the history of Turkey’s development.”
“As a country that dominates the most important trade corridors of the developing world, Turkey will become the world’s most important logistics centre with the Kanal Istanbul. Thus, the Black Sea will turn into a trade lake for Turkey,” commented Adil Karaismailoğlu, Turkey’s transport minister.
The controversial mega-project has drawn plenty of criticism.
Istanbul’s mayor Ekrem Imamoglu has said the project would “annihilate” water resources for the city’s 16m residents and ruin the province’s nature beyond repair.