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Istanbul Canal will relieve congestion, supporters say

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 4/28/2011 12:00:00 AM | ERISA DAUTAJ ŞENERDEM

The new Istanbul Canal project will help reduce overcrowding in the city by moving people out of the center, politicians and experts said Thursday.

Concerns that the new Istanbul Canal project will cause a detrimental boost to the city’s population are unfounded, politicians and experts said Thursday, arguing that it will instead help reduce overcrowding.

“I am sure the project will relieve the city’s traffic and will reduce pressure on the city’s center, by spreading the population [from the center] to the periphery,” Fatih Mayor Mustafa Demir told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Thursday after participating in a panel discussion at Istanbul Commerce University.

This pattern has already been demonstrated by the new settlement centers built recently in the city’s suburbs by the Housing Development Administration, or TOKİ, the mayor of the central Istanbul district said.

“For instance, people living in Fatih realized they could rent or buy property at much lower prices and moved [to the new settlements], thus reducing the pressure on the city’s center. I am sure it will become better [after the canal is built],” Demir said.

The Istanbul Canal project unveiled by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday would create a second strait cutting through the city’s European side. The canal will measure 40 to 50 kilometers long, about 150 meters wide and 25 meters deep, Erdoğan told the packed and raucous crowd that had assembled at the Istanbul Congress Center to hear the prime minister announce his long-secret “crazy project” for the city.

Former Turkish Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit proposed a similar project in 1994, but the second strait was never built.

“The present Istanbul [Bosphorus] strait will be for Istanbul residents, not tankers,” Demir said. He said the project would pay for itself in passage fees from the large number of ships that currently line up to transit between the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea via the Bosphorus.

Sounding a cautionary note, Professor Işık Aydemir said the project would have to be discussed widely as it carries great significance not only for Istanbul but for all of Turkey. “[The canal’s] large economic and ecological costs must also be accounted for in the future,” Aydemir, a professor at Istanbul Commerce University’s Department for Internal Architecture and Environmental Design, told the Daily News on Thursday.

He added, however, that should the new canal draw Istanbul residents from the existing city center, it might relieve congestion and thus have a positive effect on risk preparations for the large earthquake that is expected to occur in the city in the future.

The canal project is technically easy to be realized, İsmet Yıldırım, the general director of Istanbul’s Housing Master Plan Enterprise, or KİPTAŞ, told the Daily News on Thursday after participating in the panel discussion at the university.

“It is a great project that will make the city more dynamic. [We have to make sure], however, that we use it for the city’s transformation,” Yıldırım said.

The project will allow for badly constructed buildings in different Istanbul districts to be demolished, and the people living there to be relocated to the area around the new canal, he said. “As the region there will be transformed into an appealing area, people will also wish to move to a place that is similar to the Bosphorus,” Yıldırım said.

Because the canal is a state project, KİPTAŞ, which is under the supervision of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, might not be involved in its implementation, the organization’s director said. “We might, however, get involved in the construction of infrastructure and buildings in the area surrounding the canal,” he added.

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