Omnibus bill paves legal way for controversial ‘Kanal Istanbul’
ANKARA – Anadolu AgencyAn endeavor to legally define waterways is underway as part of efforts to realize a controversial project, dubbed “Kanal Istanbul,” which aims to build a canal across Istanbul’s European side to supplement the Bosphorus Strait.
As waterways are currently unregulated in Turkish law, the bill was the first step to creating the necessary legal regulations for the construction of the waterway. The proposed definition defines the waterway suggested as “[a]n artificial water gateway constructed upon the plan for the development of an area where marine vessels are used as a means of transportation.”
The code also aims to regulate state and public properties across the areas designated for the realization of the plan, stating all such properties will be bound by Kanal Istanbul’s construction plans.
The proposed regulation suggests that properties in the proposed area belonging to the treasury or the provincial special administration will be used for the purposes of building the canal, citing “public welfare” as the legal grounds.
According to the draft, the qualifications of public properties like meadows or pastures in the area will be lifted ex officio by the Ministry of Transportation, Communications and Maritime Affairs, without regard to the provisions of the pasture law.
Following the discussion at the Plan and Budget Commission, Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım responded to questions from opposition deputies, whereby he denied criticisms about the project’s existing legal barriers.
“Studies are ongoing, universities are conducting research. It is not to outright reject the project before waiting for the results of these research and studies,” Yıldırım said, adding the details of the plan will be shared with the general public once its contents are clearer.
“A project as big as this needs to be discussed and we have been discussing [it] since 2011,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the minister denied that legally defining waterways was directed at realizing the Kanal Istanbul project, calling the claims “unfair.”
Kanal Istanbul was among the “crazy projects” of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a campaign promise ahead of the 2011 general elections.
Erdoğan previously pledged to build a 43-kilometer-long, 400-meter-wide canal connected with six bridges.
Some 500,000 people would reside in the area surrounding the canal, he had also said.