The Turkish government insisted on April 12 that it intends to carry out a promised mega project to dig a 45-kilometre shipping canal linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. Widely seen as an unrealistic election promise, Ankara said it has every intention of building the passage in order to ease congestion, and the risks, in the Bosphorus.
"We believe that this is a very realistic project that will be talked about by the world," Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan told reporters, according to Reuters. Although he declined to discuss the cost of the ambitious scheme - which is a pet project of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan - he claimed that the country's Higher Planning Council has decided to press ahead.
Erdogan announced the plan for "Kanal Istanbul" ahead of the general election in 2011, in what many Turks regarded as a ambitious but unrealistic vision. The canal would turn the European side of Istanbul into part of a large island, as it runs parallel and to the north-west of the Bosphorus. Under the plans, land dug up may be used to fill in part of the sea and create a third airport and sea port.
Speaking at a separate event, Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdogan Bayraktar said that the government is now working on a third alternative route for the project, as it seeks a way to plough through the heavily populated area, reports Sabah. A clarification of the route will be ready in 1.5 months he claimed, mentioning resistance from residents and the cost of appropriation.
The Bosphorus is the only maritime outlet to the world's oceans for Black Sea states, many of which are major crude producers, or transit oil and oil products. Turkish officials estimate that around 150m tonnes of such cargo passes through the tight stretch of water each year, provoking concern over the potential consequences of a spill.
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