Istanbul mayor calls on residents to sign petition against gov’t canal project

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu on Sunday called on all residents of the megacity to object to the government’s contentious Istanbul Canal megaproject, saying the artificial waterway would cause irreversible damage to the city.

İmamoğlu shared a petition on Twitter, calling for the 16 million residents of Turkey’s largest city to object to the 50-kilometre-long canal, set to link the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara through Istanbul.

“Such a miserable, contemptible situation has surely never been experienced in Turkish history,’’ the Istanbul mayor said, referring to the project’s 10-day suspension over environmental concerns. 

The project is an effort to  “make a happy minority wealthy,” he said.

İmamoğlu is a vocal critic of the project, announced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan 2011, before he was elected prime minister for a third term. His ruling Justice and Development Party government has failed to start the artificial waterway project in the nine years that followed.

Ankara maintains the Istanbul Canal will reduce traffic on the busy Bosporus strait by providing a preferable trading route for international shipping companies, but critics accuse the AKP of risking irreversible ecological damage in an attempt to reinvigorate Turkey’s ailing construction sector and providing cash for its allies and clients.

"Its scientific leg is yet to be designated and it is being strongly rejected by conscience of the public,’’ İmamoğlu said. "Why such a rush?’’