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Turkish PM blames archaeological 'stuff' for Marmaray Tunnel delay

ISTANBUL - Daily News with wires | 2/27/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Discoveries of 'archaeological stuff' on the Bosphorus seabed kept the Marmaray Tunnel from being completed by the end of 2010, the Turkish PM has said.

The discovery of “archaeological stuff” on the Bosphorus seabed kept the Marmaray Tunnel from being completed by the end of 2010, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Saturday during his visit to the underground project site.

“Actually, the Marmaray [project] did not have to be postponed to October 2013,” Erdoğan said, adding that the tunnel could have been finalized in 2010 but was hindered by many barriers.

“First [they said] there was archaeological stuff, then it was clay pots, then this, then that. Is any of this stuff more important than people?” the prime minister asked, comments that were criticized by archaeology experts.

Committees and courts also created barriers to the project, Erdoğan said. “These have held us up for three years, but there will be no more barriers from now on, whatever it takes,” he said, according to a Doğan News Agency, or DHA, report Saturday.

The prime minister made his comments during a groundbreaking ceremony at the Marmaray connection point in Istanbul’s Sarayburnu area. Erdoğan, who also celebrated his 57th birthday Sunday, went 58 meters underground to inspect the ongoing work at the construction site.

Although the postponement due to archaeological findings on the seabed has cost the project 500 million Turkish Liras, experts say the artifacts discovered are priceless heritage artifacts for “humanity’s history.”

Countless artifacts pertaining to prehistoric eras, the first agricultural societies and an ancient Bosphorus village have been extracted from Yenikapı’s seabed, making it “one of the world’s most precious underwater collections,” said Necmi Karul, a professor at Istanbul University’s Prehistory Department, according to a report by daily Radikal on Sunday. Karul said the findings were unique in the world and indicated how important Istanbul and Anatolia had been since prehistoric times.

“The extracted works are so important that they changed Istanbul’s history,” said the chair of the Marmaray excavations, İsmail Karamut.

“They are very important for the history of humanity and the world’s archaeology. They brought Istanbul’s history back 8,000 years,” said Istanbul Archaeological Director Zynep Kızıltan.

The Marmaray Tunnel Project was first launched by Erdoğan in May 2004. The tunnel will be 13.6 kilometers long and will connect Istanbul’s Yenikapı and Üsküdar districts on the city’s European and Asian sides, respectively.

[HH] New underwater highway by 2023, Erdoğan says

Another undersea project was also announced Saturday by Erdoğan, who said a highway would be constructed within an underwater tunnel. “Along with the bridge traffic, we also aim to relieve city traffic with this project,” Erdoğan said. He added that of the newly planned highway’s total length of 14.5 kilometers, 5.5 kilometers would pass undersea. He also said eight underpasses, 10 pedestrian overpasses and four new crossroads would also be constructed in the framework of this project.

“[The highway] will be a joint project carried out by Turkey and South Korea and will cost $1.75 billion,” Erdoğan said, adding that the project would be realized using the “build-operate-transfer” model and no public resources.

[HH] Students protested Erdoğan

Two female students meanwhile protested Erdoğan during his speech at the “1st Turkey Children’s Rights Congress” organized at the Haliç Congress Center in Istanbul on Sunday. The two students stood up during Erdoğan’s speech to protest the country’s education system. They were escorted out of the hall by security forces.

“It is impossible to understand how they were raised that they think they can be so provocative during these kinds of meetings,” Erdoğan said afterward.

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