According to the information Today’s Zaman received from an official who wished to remain anonymous, Erdoğan is planning an immense construction project to build a canal between the Black sea and the Marmara Sea through Silivri and Çatalca, the two westernmost districts in Istanbul, which will take the entire naval transportation burden off the Bosporus.
According to the official’s account, Erdoğan first thought about the project when he was the mayor of İstanbul, but it evolved into its current form after two floods affected the city in 2007 and 2009. However, the same source said, Erdoğan took the project onto his agenda because of the possibility of an oil spill disaster caused by an accident in the Bosporus, which is a frequent route for oil-carrying vessels. In 1979, a Romanian-flagged ship, the Independenta, loaded with 94,600 tons of oil, collided with another vessel in the Bosporus, resulting in the deaths of 43 crew members and a 27-day fire, not to mention the severe air and sea contamination which persisted for much longer. Erdoğan’s project is expected to offer a solution to sea traffic hazards and possible future floods.
Erdoğan discussed the feasibility of such a project with some experts from İstanbul University and decided to put it into practice, the same source said, and added that more in-depth talks had been held with Russian and Italian companies, one of which, a Russian company whose name the source refused to disclose, told the relevant Turkish authorities that it could undertake the construction.
This map is for illustrative purposes only. It was not drawn in accordance with any feasibility report.
According to the preliminary agreement with the company, the project is expected to cost between $8-$10 billion and is planned to be built, not in a straight line, but by following streambeds. If everything goes as planned, the project will be based on a public-private partnership as a part of which the Russian company will bear all the costs but would eventually hold the rights over any revenue earned from the canal’s traffic. The project was kept secret because, the same source said, Erdoğan wanted to avoid any possible disputes between third parties over acquiring land in the region to later be sold to the state for much higher prices. The experts and the private companies consulted said it was possible to pool the region’s streambeds on which the canal would be built, following the enlargement and deepening of the streams. They also told Erdoğan that the project could be completed by 2023, the centennial of the modern republic, the source said.
In a different project, the Ministry of Transportation has been engaged in work to connect the Black Sea and Marmara Sea through the bed of the Sakarya stream. Minister Binali Yıldırım said last year that they have taken the Sakarya project onto their agenda, but Erdoğan’s Çatalca-Silivri canal project came as a complete surprise to people in Turkey. Erdoğan first talked about what he called “the crazy project” to Hıncal Uluç, a columnist with the Sabah daily, without giving any details as to what it might be, but only a few days later said the opposition would understand their real intentions by the time they announced what it was. After the news pertaining to Erdoğan’s project hit the headlines, some group speculated that he would build a gigantic mosque on the Anatolian side of İstanbul. Others said it was going to be the building of a huge park, on the area currently occupied by İstanbul Atatürk Airport and moving the airport to Kemerburgaz while enlarging it. The thing was none of these, and similar other projects that people came up with, sounded “crazy.”
‘Bridge of Civilizations’ over the Bosporus
Once the project is completed, Erdoğan intended to make a change to the planned third bridge over the Bosporus, the same official told Today’s Zaman. Erdoğan reportedly wants the third bridge to be constructed between Poyrazköy on the Asian side and Garipçe on the European side. The same source said the bridge would be made of stone and have three pillars in the Bosporus, which would not have any sea traffic once the planned canal was open. According to the official, Erdoğan wanted that bridge to be the “biggest symbol for the alliance of civilizations” and that it could be named the “Bridge of Civilizations.”