Canal Istanbul ‘crazy project’ boosts real estate market but locals worried

Canal Istanbul ‘crazy project’ boosts real estate market but locals worried

Cansu Şimşek – ISTANBUL
Canal Istanbul ‘crazy project’ boosts real estate market but locals worried

The announcement of the route of a planned canal in Istanbul, linking the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara west of the Bosphorus, has triggered major action in the real estate market, but many locals are worried about the potentially damaging environmental impact of the “crazy project.”

Güngör Özer, the head (muhtar) of the village of Dursunköy on the Canal Istanbul route, said big investors - including large international companies and Arab investors - have bought up 80 percent of the land in the village from locals.

“I am both excited but also saddened about the issue of Canal Istanbul. We were very happy with our tranquil village life. Now I am wondering what we will do if those enormous buildings also show up here,” Özer told daily Hürriyet.

“I hope our village coffee house will at least remain in our hands. But if we are talking about luxury apartments, residences, and villas we will no longer be able to build our village houses,” he added.

Another village on the planned route of the canal is Baklalı, which has a population of 1,800. The Baklalı village head, Selim Şen, said they are doing everything possible to continue agriculture and animal husbandry in the village despite potential development in the area.

“We have a respected saying: ‘It’s a global project.’ So we were relieved when Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan recently said ‘Dursunköy and Baklalı locals will not be negatively affected [from the project].’ We do not know any lifestyle [other than that of a village]. We wouldn’t know how to adapt to life in an apartment. Whenever we go into the city we immediately look to come back [to our village],” Şen said.

Due to the construction of Istanbul’s third airport, which is ongoing near Baklalı, three quarters of the village’s lands have already been sold to investors, according to Şen.

“And now [due to the Canal Istanbul project] these lands are constantly changing hands. I don’t know how we can stay here anymore. I understand that this is an issue of national importance and it is going to be undertaken, so we of course stand by it. But as the village head my concern is that our village population, many of whom are elderly, do not suffer,” he said.

On Jan. 15, Arslan announced that the Küçükçekmece-Sazlıdere-Durusu corridor had been chosen as the “most appropriate route” for the Canal Istanbul project, which would extend for a length of 45 kilometers.

The route will start on the Küçükçekmece Lake, located between the districts of Esenyurt and Avcılar on Istanbul’s European side. It will continue north through Istanbul’s Sazlıdere Dam and reach the Black Sea east of the Terkos Dam, located in the village of Durusu in the Çatalca district, the minister said.

Canal Istanbul has been in the works for a number of years, with then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan first heralding it as a “crazy project” ahead of the 2011 parliamentary elections.

However, opponents have warned of dangerous environmental consequences and uncontrolled urban expansion in the city.

Following Arslan’s official announcement of the route, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned in a report that the canal would disturb the current delicate balance between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.

Before the project was initiated, experts should “understand the specific dynamics of Istanbul seas,” the report stated.