Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday held a groundbreaking ceremony in Istanbul for a massive, highly controversial $15 billion, six-year infrastructure project which will include the digging of a new canal parallel to the Bosporus, a strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.
“Today we are opening a new page in the history of Turkey’s development,” Erdogan said during his speech, promising that the 45 km “Canal Istanbul [will] save the future” of the capital.
The government hopes the new waterway will ease shipping traffic and reduce accidents in the Bosporus, which is one of the world’s busiest marine lanes. Construction of the channel, first suggested by Erdogan over a decade ago, will entail new seaports, bridges, businesses, housing districts and artificial lakes, Ankara said.
The project’s opponents warn the digging will severely damage Turkey’s environment, marine life and fresh water supply, increase the risk of earthquakes around Istanbul and hurt the country’s already struggling economy.