Kanal Istanbul and Montreux

Kanal Istanbul and Montreux

One of Prime Minister Erdoğan’s “crazy projects” designed for Istanbul is the waterway to be opened between the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea named Kanal Istanbul. 

Professor Cemal Saydam from Hacettepe University’s Environmental Engineering Department spoke in Istanbul. It was the Freelance Architects Association of Istanbul (İSMD) that invited him. After listening to Professor Saydam, it appears that the project is not only crazy but also dangerous for the city.
A chemist and a marine scientist, professor Saydam has studied our seas for years; he knows the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Black Sea by heart. His expertise is the Bosphorus. 

He is the scientist in Turkey who best knows the Straits System which has a complicated structure with the first 25 meters being the Mediterranean and the bottom entirely the Black Sea. 

In our conversation, he said that he was surprised that scientists like him were not consulted in such a mega projects that is said to cost 10 billion Turkish Liras.
Professor Saydam is exceptionally correct in being surprised.

Istanbul is maybe one of the cities in the world which has the most beautiful geography. It has hosted there empires that have marked history as their capital, hence accommodating a unique historic heritage. 

While designing a mega project that would affect the future of such a city, can it be possible not to consult scientists? 

I will not go into too much detail but according to scientific data Professor Saydam has, Kanal Istanbul would disrupt the ecological balances of the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea; and also will cause the city to smell like rotten eggs after a few decades. 

There is also another issue brought up by Professor Saydam: The Montreux Convention Turkey has signed in 1936. 

“According to Montreux, commercial ships do not pay any fee while passing through the Bosphorus. How can you convince the ships to pass through Kanal Istanbul with a certain fee while the Montreux Convention exists,” Saydam asked. 

Right at this point, I want to mention a study of the think tank GPot (Global Political Trends Center) under the umbrella of Istanbul Kultur University about the Montreux Convention and Kanal Istanbul. 

The study has been penned by GPot Director Professor Mensur Akgün and Deputy Director Sylvia Tiryaki. 

In this study dated two years ago, the Akgün-Tiryaki dual, despite emphasizing the ecological destruction, asses that the construction of this water way that would by-pass the Bosphorus is a justified decision because it will mitigate the risk of accidents endangering Istanbul. 

However, they draw attention to Article 2 of the Montreux Convention regulating the passage of commercial ships through the straits. 

According to this, during time of peace, commercial ships, no matter what their flag and cargo are, are free to pass the straits. 

No fee can be imposed upon them except for tax and certain charges. 

According to GPot’s study, “In short, as long as this article exists, it is impossible for Turkey to close the Straits with deterrent measures and to direct ships carrying hazardous material such as petroleum and gas to the Canal asking for a higher fee.” 

“The construction of the Canal requires serious legal analysis, diplomatic effort and political vision,” it also says. 

There is a question over mark how much this advice is taken into consideration in the present situation. 

What we can only see are the efforts of TOKİ trying to secure land in the area where Kanal Istanbul is said to be built.