Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Second Bosporus . . . ?

IMAGE from Hurriyet Daily News

The Turkish government's plans to build a second canal right through the heart of Istanbul have raised more than a few eyebrows. The government first talked about this last fall, but yesterday announced a two-year study plan, after which construction would begin. Jenny White gives a summary of the project and asks a couple of really good questions at Kamil Pasha:
There will be a two-year “study period”. Then they’ll start digging. Goal to finish is 2023. Expected cost, a mere $10 billion. Istanbul will become an island and two half-islands. The canal site will be on state-owned land, but there will also be expropriations.

The idea is to allow the biggest tankers to go through the city in the new canal instead of along the Bosphorus, thereby avoiding potential environmental catastrophe in case of a ship crash, oil spill, floods, etc on the Bosphorus. Because the Bosphorus is an international waterway there are all kinds of hazardous materials traveling unhindered through the middle of the city. But the ships in the new canal would still be going through the middle of the city, admittedly without the treacherous currents that afflict Bosphorus traffic. The canal, unlike the Bosphorus, would be fully under Turkish control. Can Turkey legally ban ships from using the Bosphorus? What if the ships prefer that route instead of using the canal (especially if the canal is more expensive)?

Canal length: 45-50km. Depth: 25 meters. Width: 145-150 meters. The soil will be used to build a new harbor and a new airport. (click here)

Maybe it’s me, that I just can’t think big enough. But I also don’t trust the government’s reasons, rationale, and ability to do this properly with sufficient study and technical expertise. (eg what effect would this have on Istanbul’s earthquake susceptibility?)
Hmm, yeah? . . .

UPDATE I (4/30) -- Aengus Collins asks some more good questions of his blog Istanbul Notes.
Mr Erdoğan clearly wants to present himself as a visionary leader who is ready and willing to stamp the power of his imagination on the most significant city in his country. But there are many more imaginative things that he might have chosen to do, many other ways in which he might have sought to improve the lives of the city’s millions of inhabitants had he wanted to.

How about a serious attempt to remedy Istanbul’s criminal unpreparedness for the major earthquake that everyone knows is coming and that everyone knows will kill thousands upon thousands? How about an overhaul of the planning system to incorporate some awareness of the fact that the built environment isn’t an end in itself, but a means of furthering a wide range of human needs? How about overcoming the insanity that passes itself off as driving on Istanbul’s roads? How about a public library worthy of one of the world’s great cities? How about a commitment to retain what little green space is left here and perhaps recover some that has been lost? How about a concerted attempt to deal with the various countrywide factors that are driving crippling and unsustainable increases in the city’s population?
I think Jenny and Aengus have this covered, and so I will leave it at that.

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