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The crazy project – Canal Istanbul Il “Crazy Project” - Canale di Istanbul

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Author(s): Seda Kundak | Mete Başar Baypınar

Journal: TeMA : Journal of Land Use, Mobility and Environment
ISSN 1970-9889

Volume: 4;
Issue: 3;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Canal Istanbul Project | impacts

ABSTRACT
It was late April 2011 when “the Crazy Project - Canal Istanbul” was proposed by the Prime Minister of Turkey, during his election campaign.  Although the idea of an artificial canal is not new, since it is initiated without any consensus between the people and institutions in Istanbul, the project immediately set a large number of debates. These vary from the legitimacy of decentralization of governance, to potential impacts of the canal on international politics, economy, environment and urban life.  Regarding past infrastructure projects in Istanbul, such large scale investments have caused extensive acceleration in construction sector in one hand and social and economic shifts on the other.  In this paper, the Canal Istanbul Project is evaluated according to basic motivations and claims of the PM, multi-perspective view through challenges and limitation that the project is likely to face with and speculations on implementation approach. The final discussion on the project is based on benefits/losses of Istanbul once the project will be implemented.It was late April 2011 when “the Crazy Project - Canal Istanbul” was proposed by the Prime Minister of Turkey, during his election campaign. The proposed project consisted of construction of an entirely new city, an airport, a seaport and recreational areas. But the most important and striking element was a new maritime transportation canal which is to be constructed as an alternative to the Bosphorus Strait. Although the idea of an artificial canal is not new, since it has been initiated without any consensus between the people and institutions in Istanbul, and no scientific or technical study about the feasibility and environmental impacts of such a project has been presented, the “crazy” project immediately set a large number of debates among scholars and professionals. These vary from the legitimacy of decentralization of governance, to technological and legal possibilities for construction, feasibility of the canal in operational terms, potential impacts of the canal on international politics, economy, environment, international relations and urban life. Since the only information about the project was a digital animation, presented in the election speech of the Prime Minister, there is little information about the scope of the project. Such large scale investments in Istanbul have caused extensive acceleration in construction sector on one hand and social and economic shifts on the other. The “crazy” project initiated by the ruling party which is known to be ambitious in real estate projects has therefore raised hot debates across scholars and professionals. A variety of articles were produced in response, discussing the scope of the project and its potential impacts on the environment, the city of Istanbul, Turkey’s international relations and the economy of Turkey. However, these articles often focused only on the fictional “Canal”, and neglected the full scope of the project. Since the project is ambitious, large, but little is known about its exact location and land use pattern, it deserves an evaluation with a wider perspective than current articles that may be found in popular science magazines or daily newspapers. In this paper, the Canal Istanbul Project is evaluated mostly according to the speech of the PM, which provides basic motivations and claims for the project. The second group of sources is the past ideas and projects of an artificial canal initiated almost 500 years ago. The third group of sources consists of scientific and journal articles published in the Turkish media after the speech. We try to describe challenges and limitations which the project is likely to face by implying a multi-perspective view. Then we speculate on the implementation approach, basing on the current planning experience and the recently approved Master Plan of Istanbul. The final discussion on the project is based on benefits/losses of Istanbul once the project will be implemented.
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