Erdogan promises that construction on new Istanbul canal will begin by end of June

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that the construction of a multi-billion dollar canal, that would provide an alternative to Istanbul’s crowded Bosphorus strait, would begin at the end of June.

Erdogan made the announcement on Saturday May 29th. The 45km “Canal Istanbul” would cost an estimated $15bn.

The government says the new canal, dismissed as a “white elephant” by many even before any work has begun, would ease shipping traffic and the risk of accidents in the Bosphorus. Opponents noted that Erdogan could be looking to boost the economy of what was in years gone by his political base and reverse the slide of his popularity ahead of the 2023 presidential elections.

The planned waterway would create a new city of half a million, with several bridges connecting the two sides. Istanbul’s total population is officially estimated at some 16 million and unofficially estimated at several million more.

Istanbul’s Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, who’s seen as a potential future challenger to Erdogan, is firmly opposed to the project, saying it would “annihilate” water resources for Istanbul’s residents, ruin the province’s nature beyond repair and make it unliveable.