Ambitious ‘Kanal İstanbul’ project expected to create 2 million jobs

Prime Minister Erdoğan announced the new İstanbul waterway project on Wednesday.

April 28, 2011, Thursday/ 17:59:00

The new waterway to be built in İstanbul to bypass the congested Bosporus strait has caused mixed reactions, but it has certainly stirred excitement in the business world.

Although Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not disclose the exact location and cost of the project, analysts estimate that it will cost around $40 billion. There are also predictions that the new canal area will create 2.5 million new jobs as it evolves into a center of attraction.

Today's Zaman, which was the first newspaper to predict correctly that Erdoğan's long-anticipated project would be the building of a relief canal in İstanbul in a story published on Oct. 7, 2010, has acquired information on the project's details. Justice and Development Party (AK Party) İstanbul deputy Feyzullah Kıyıklık shared some of the details of the project with Today's Zaman readers. The new waterway, to be called Kanal İstanbul, will cost $10-15 billion to build, Kıyıklık said. However, this amount is only for building the canal itself, and the predicted total cost to bring the entire project to completion is $40 billion.

The surveying phase of the project is expected to take about two years, while the foundation stone is expected to be laid in 2014. According to the government's projections, at least one million new jobs will be created during the construction phase of the project. The government expects the canal to create 1.5 million new jobs after its completion.

Erdoğan told his party’s senior members that the waterway will help solve Turkey’s unemployment problem to a significant extent. The government expects an annual revenue of $2.5 million from the canal. Kıyıklık said: “We don’t see it as only a canal project. Its complete cost nears $40 billion if you think of the planned airport, hotels, two new mega cities, five bridges -- including one over the Bosporus -- three congress centers and various recreational areas. The canal alone will make $2.5 billion annually.” The government has plans to allow international vessels to pass through the waterway for a fee.

According to initial plans, the canal will be about 45 kilometers long -- plus or minus 3-5 kilometers -- and pass mostly through Treasury land. The depth of the canal will be 25 meters, and its width will be around 150 meters. According to government estimates, the canal’s construction will double production volumes in the iron and cement industry.

The government also predicts that the growth rate of Turkey’s construction industry -- currently at 4.2 percent a year -- will double during the construction phase. Turkey produces 66 million tons of cement a year, which is expected to exceed 100 million tons a year after the canal construction commences. The country’s annual volume of steel production (23.6 million tons) is expected to reach 35 million tons. Turkey’s iron production of 8 million tons a year is expected to reach 13 million tons a year. The employment rate in the sector is expected to go up by 25 percent during project construction.

85,000 vessels

The project will also help vessels that lose an estimated $1.4 billion annually in total due to being kept waiting in the Black and Marmara seas. An estimated 150 vessels will pass through the canal every day. Currently, 51,000 vessels pass through the Bosporus annually, but the new canal will be able to handle 85,000 ships of every size annually.

In order to minimize the adverse affects the project might have on the environment, they intend to use materials mined in the region. The environmental cost of the project is expected to be around $2 billion. Most of these mines will later be turned into lakes after the completion of the project.

There will be two mega-cities of 1 million people each on either side of Kanal İstanbul. However, these cities will not be right next to the banks of the canal, which will be used for building large parks, shopping centers and congress halls. The residential sections of the cities will begin on the other side of this area.

Five bridges and an airport

The Kanal İstanbul project includes the building of a third bridge over the Bosporus strait and there will be four bridges over the canal itself. Although the government initially planned five bridges, two others might be added as the project progresses, if deemed necessary by experts. The project also includes a new airport with a capacity of 60 million flights a year. The cost of the airport is expected to be $10 billion. The government also envisions the world’s biggest shopping mall to be built in this area, hoping to attract $20 to 30 billion in foreign investments. Russian and Italian companies have already shown great interest in the project and the government believes it will be able to attract some Gulf capital. The project, according to government forecasts, will bring 50 million tourists to İstanbul every year and earn the city some $100 billion in the first five years after its completion.

Independent experts have said the figures for the estimated cost of the project sound reasonable. Head of the Union of Turkey Construction Industrialists’ Employers (İNTES) Şükrü Koçağlı said Kanal İstanbul could become the world’s largest scale construction project.

Construction experts predict some 152 million cubic meters of earth to be excavated during the waterway’s construction and estimate the total amount of concrete to be used in its construction to be around 7,875,000 cubic meters. Moving the excavated earth alone is expected to incur a $5 billion cost. The estimated cost of the steel and iron products to be deployed in the building of the bridges is expected be $7 billion.

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