Istanbul Canal project

Turkish opposition calls for referendum on the construction of Istanbul Canal

Opposition parties threaten to bring to international justice the mega project, devised by Erdoğan and with a cost of 13 billion euros.

The president of the İYİ Parti, the fourth Turkish opposition force with 36 of the 600 deputies of the Turkish parliament, asked on Wednesday the Turkish government to hold a referendum on the construction of the Istanbul Canal, whose works were inaugurated by Erdoğan on Saturday in a ceremony in which the Turkish president affirmed that the mega project, with a cost of more than 13 billion euros, will be completed in 6 years.

“There has not been a referendum on the Istanbul Canal, and it does not have the approval of public opinion. Take the Istanbul Canal to a referendum. If the people say ‘yes’, they can build it; if they say ‘no’, tell them that you will abide by the decision of the nation. Take it to a referendum, if you can afford it,” Meral Akşener said during a speech to deputies from her party at the parliament headquarters in Ankara.

Akşener said that her party will firmly oppose the project, adding that she even plans to bring it before international justice if the works finally go ahead without having been submitted to a popular vote, and referred to the concept of “odious debt” to underline that Turkish citizens do not have to bear the cost of the debt that the construction of a project of such dimensions will entail.

Supporters and detractors of the Istanbul Canal

The İYİ Parti is not the only party opposing the project, whose route will divide the Istanbul province in two by connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of ​​Marmara with an artificial water canal; the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the main opposition force in Turkey, has also shown its firm rejection and has asked the international financial institutions to oppose the debt that the Turkish state will have to acquire to finance the project.

With a length of 45 kilometres and 275 meters wide, the Istanbul Canal aims to be an alternative sea route to the passage through the Bosphorus Strait, through which 3,000 ships crossed a year in 1931 but currently more than 40,000 pass annually: it is expected that by the year 2050, they will reach 78,000.

Advocates for the construction of the Istanbul Canal argue that the canal is necessary to avoid the growing risk of accidents in the strait, and they claim that its cost will be easily paid with the income it will generate; its detractors, including the metropolitan mayor of Istanbul, warn of the consequences for the environment and for the city’s water resources of a work of such dimensions, as well as its high cost, and call for a referendum on a project which they claim is destined for urban speculation, since it will include the construction of new cities.