Municipality must be part of Kanal Istanbul, minister says
Turkey’s Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum has refuted recent claims about people, especially foreigners from oil-rich Arab countries, buying land from the Kanal Istanbul area, also saying that the Istanbul Municipality should also be part of the project.
He said in a speech at the Smart Cities Action Plan meeting on Dec. 24 that the ministry has worked jointly with the Istanbul Municipality during the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project.
Known as the “crazy project,” Kanal Istanbul, a plan to connect the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea with a Bosphorus-like artificial canal in the north of the megacity, has been on the government’s agenda since 2011.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu has been a vocal opponent of the project. He has repeatedly said carrying out such a project will be “death” for Istanbul.
İmamoğlu on Dec. 23 announced that the municipality is withdrawing from taking part in the protocol. The mayor’s remarks came after the ministry announced the final approval of the EIA.
During his speech, Kurum said İmamoğlu has no authority to do so.
“You can’t back out from a protocol with a city council decision. If you do so, then you will undertake all legal and material responsibilities. Being a mayor means providing service for the citizens. We should take a look at which projects [İmamoğlu] carried out during six months,” Kurum said.
The ministry gave the EIA approval in a report submitted over a year after the EIA and survey work were finished in August 2018.
The report will be presented to the public for 10 days at the ministry and the Istanbul Provincial Environment and Urbanization Directorate for public comment.
He also ruled out claims over land purchases around the project area.
“We have never allowed any land rent neither on the route of Kanal Istanbul or any other project we previously did. We neither collected land as the state, nor allowed anyone to collect the land. Therefore, no such thing is in question in this project,” Kurum said.
“We did not let any land rate on the route of Kanal Istanbul. It is out of the question for a citizen, an individual or a company to collect land,” he said.
Kurum also said that current property owners in the Kanal Istanbul area will get their due.
“The plan will pass from the city council, and implementations will be carried out in the context of that plan,” he said.
“Thus, we have never done nor will ever do any project that our citizens do not want,” he added. The dispute on a suspected rentier system in the Kanal Istanbul project commenced when it was revealed that Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, the mother of Qatar’s emir, purchased land from the area of the planned canal.