It is more of a promise than a project. Istanbul will have its second Bosporus. It was the moderate Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself to ensure this and when he presented the idea, he even announced the date when this project will come to an end: in 2023, the hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the modern republic.
The moderate Islamist government executive is convinced that such a colossal project will place Istanbul at the centre of the world’s attention. The majority of Turkish newspapers and building industry professionals believe this is total madness bringing forward the fact that a construction project of this size will have severe impacts on the environment and devastating consequences on the territory.
The second Bosporus will rise up in the European side of the city, west to the Thrace and the Edirne. It will be between 40 to 50 kilometres long, 150 metres large and approximately 25 metres deep. In his presentation, Erdogan explained that the construction of the canal is necessary to relieve traffic on the Bosporus. Every year, over 140 million tons of oil, 4 million tons of gas and 3 million tons of chemical substances pass through its waters. Every year these substances are a danger to approximately two million citizens who live on the banks of the famous canal. According to the newspapers of the Crescent Moon this colossal project will cost between 20 and 50 billion dollars. Now that the elections for the parliament’s renewal have taken place on the 12th June 2011, the huge project will soon be elaborated.
The moderate Islamist Prime Minister spoke of a real dream for the city where a third bridge over the Bosporus must be added with an underground tunnel crossing the Sea of Marmara. A munificence that drew accusations from political opponents that the Prime Minister was megalomaniac while planners and environmentalists accused him of being reckless.
“There are always great dreams behind great steps and great victories in history” – stated Erdogan when presenting the project of the second Bosporus that in Turkey is simply called Kanal Istanbul, Istanbul’s Kanal -. We have this dream for our nation and for the city. We will pull up our sleeves for our canal. It would be one of the century’s greatest projects and will shadow those of Panama and Suez”.
The canal would thus divide the ancient Constantinople in a big island between the Bosporus and the Kanal Istanbul and two peninsulas, one of which is represented by the current Asian side. Ultra luxury residential neighbourhoods, ferry stations and the third airport of the Turkish megalopolis yet to be built representing an international hub of prime importance will rise up along the second Bosporus.
Besides the persons who are preoccupied by the impact that this project will have on the city, there are also those who wonder where Erdogan will find the money to finance all these projects. “This is a secret – the Prime Minister told the journalists – I will give no information whatsoever to avoid speculations. I can only say that the funding will not be a problem at all”.
Meanwhile, scepticism is growing amongst building professionals. “I would not consider this project to be totally mad – explained the architect and urban specialist Korhan Gumus to Hurriyet -. This is certainly the project of the century. But I have not figured out the objective yet. Is it to change the geography of the city? It seems to me that this is more of a project to increase the land value in the areas where the canal will be built.”
“We definitely have to understand the reason behind the implementation of this project – explained Orhan Demis, member of the Chamber of town planners in Istanbul -. If the objective is to merely decrease the traffic on the Bosporus then this is not enough to realise such a project. There are already other alternative projects to reduce boat traffic on the Bosporus such as the construction of underground gas and oil pipelines”.
According to the most critic, the question certainly is that the second Bosporus will involve an unprecedented move in the city’s centre of gravity. This will be the time for the beginning of a race for the acquisition of land along the area where the canal would be built. Now that Erdogan has won the elections, for further details on the project one has to wait for next autumn but the controversies have already started and will continue till 2013.
Translated from Italian by Elizabeth Grech