Kanal Istanbul plans come to light

Istanbul’s latest construction project Kanal Istanbul is set to be one of the largest in Turkish history.

The artificial waterway is to be built on Istanbul’s European side, connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, bisecting the land to create an island suspended between Istanbul’s European and Asian sides. As well as easing shipping traffic in the Istanbul Strait, the project will include a huge residential element and a number of archaeological parks.
Kanal Istanbul

Kanal overview

Details released this week reveal the population of the town to be built around Kanal Istanbul will be 500,000 people, living in low rise properties in Istanbul on both sides of the canal. The original plans, which were to house 1.2 million people in high rise apartments, were vetoed by President Erdogan at a meeting last month.

An emphasis on natural surroundings is paramount, with natural water resources and flora and fauna around the canal preserved as much as possible.

Forest areas and rivers will be preserved, and recreational areas will be built in harmony with the environment where possible. There will also be a zoo and a number of archaeological parks built in an open-air recreational network adjacent to the forest.

The buildings will be a maximum of six floors, with taller buildings constructed away from the canal and lower buildings built next to the canal, in order to enhance the city's skyline. Business centres will be concentrated around the metro stations.
Kanal Istanbul

Easing traffic

The canal will be built to admit large vessels. ending the heavy Bosporous shipping traffic and eliminating pollution. Up to 160 vessels will pass through the canal each day.

The project aims to offer ease of access to business centres and residences by means of bridges, roads and public transport. Six bridges will connect the two sides of the canal, with four connected to highway routes in and out of the city. The canal will cross through Istanbul districts Kucukcekmece, Basaksehir and Arnavutkoy.

Tenders out

The huge project, which is worth US$10 billion, will be put out for tender over the coming weeks. MWH Global, who built the Panama Canal, is interested in the project, along with leading firms from China, Italy and Russia.

The project should be completed by 2023, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic.
Kanal Istanbul

Historical timeline

The canal has been proposed at least seven times before, dating back to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the sixteenth century, who had his architect devise plans for the project. For unknown reasons, the project was not completed.

In 1591, the Sultan Murad III ordered work to start on the project, but again, for reasons unknown the work never began.

In 1654 Sultan Mehmed IV tried his luck to commence the project, to no avail.

Economic woes thwarted Sultan Mustafa III's plans twice in 1760, and 53 years later, in 1813, Sultan Mahmud II prepared a report to start the process but nothing came of his plans.

A 1920-52 plan proposed a hydroelectric dam to be built across the Strait of Gibraltar, lowering the surface of the Mediterranean Sea by 200 metres. The ambitious plan included a dam across the Dardanelles, which would hold back the Black Sea. The plan was never realised.

Finally, in 1994, the leader of the Democratic Left Party, Bulent Ecevit, proposed a canal connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Marama. It wasn't until 15 years later, in 2009, that the AKP government began to take concrete steps towards beginning the project.


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