ISTANBUL: Turkey has unveiled a masterplan for building a canal through Istanbul, reviving a scheme championed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but dismissed by critics as wasteful excess, reports said Tuesday.
Erdogan — who has dubbed the canal one of his grand “wild projects” — has reportedly urged the related state bodies to “hurry up and complete the project”, which had been announced as a campaign pledge ahead of general elections in 2011.
Two new towns would be built on either side of the ship canal close to Istanbul and would turn the European side of the city between the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea into an island.
The waterway would be 43 kilometres (26 miles) long, with a width of about 400 metres (1,300 feet) and a depth of 25 metres (80 feet) with six bridges, the Hurriyet daily and other Turkish media said Tuesday, citing details from a recent meeting attended by Erdogan.
The outlining of a masterplan shows the canal is firmly on the agenda of construction projects after talk it was being quietly shelved following the first announcement in April 2011.
The canal would allow the large ships passing from the Marmara Sea to the Black Sea to bypass the Bosphorus, relieving pressure on the vessel-clogged waterway.
Residential buildings up to six storeys would be constructed on the banks of the canal to create housing for 500,000 people,
That’s down from the previous plan of housing for 1.2 million people after Erdogan warned that the new towns’ population would be “too dense.”
There will be villa-style buildings along the canal, as well as business areas complete with Istanbul’s planned third airport, parks and other green spaces.
The buildings along the canal would draw their architectural inspiration from Turkey’s Seljuk heritage, rising gradually to create an iconic skyline similar to Istanbul’s famed historical silhouette with its domes and and minarets, the reports said.
Authorities were working on the exact location for the waterway, Hurriyet said, adding that the estimated cost had already exceeded the budget of $10 billion.
Critics have blasted Erdogan’s ambitious projects, which also include a new Bosphorus bridge, as wildly excessive and damaging to the environment.
The Bosphorus, which bisects Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city with some 16 million people, is the world’s fourth busiest waterway and together with the Dardanelles Strait connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.