Guide to the Istanbul Canal

In this article, We will give an overview of the Istanbul canal project, a large-scale megaproject that’s been in the works for decades.

What is Istanbul Canal Project?

The Istanbul Canal Project is a proposed megaproject to build a waterway in Istanbul connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, cutting through the center of the city.

Why do it?

For centuries, this region has been closed off from other seas. The canal will give Turkey’s burgeoning economy access to new markets in Russia and Europe. The project is expected to cost more than $30 billion and create as many as 60,000 jobs.

Historically there’s been an effort by many parties including Greece (who said it would flood their territory) to block that project because it would reconfigure shipping lanes and disrupt international trade routes in the region.

Once it’s built, how will the canal help?

Shipping lanes will be renegotiated. International trade routes will need to be redrawn around the new waterway. All this could change the balance of global trade power and reshape world shipping patterns. The canal will also allow Turkey to expand its oil and natural-gas exports to Europe and Russia. The project may also help Turkey build more nuclear power plants, which could provide large amounts of cheap electricity for industry, including shipyards.

Will it be a toll road?

No, the government has pledged to turn the canal into a public waterway. A private consortium, including international investors such as China’s COSCO and South Korea’s Hyundai Merchant Marine, has invested nearly $6 billion to build it. Last year, the government also exempted water taxis from tolls.

How big is this thing?

The canal will stretch about 1.2 miles in length and around 350 yards in width at its widest point. That’s roughly twice as long and twice as wide as Washington State’s Elliott Bay Seawall. The tunnel will be buried 20 feet beneath the surface.

What would be the canal’s route through downtown Istanbul?

Most of the canal’s proposed routing would take it under Taksim Square and along the Bosphorus, a narrow strait about 35 miles in length. The waters of the Bosphorus are notoriously choppy, so a tunnel is needed to avoid dragging ships and boats along the shoreline. The project also aims to restore an Ottoman era aqueduct that had collapsed. A large portion of that aqueduct is currently under water as part of a construction zone for Istanbul’s new airport. Before it was flooded, this part of the Bosphorus accommodated ships carrying goods between Asia and Europe. These ships would have to use the new canal if it is ever built.

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