Smell of rotten eggs in Istanbul skies

Smell of rotten eggs in Istanbul skies

It is true that this country has a political past of civil administrations chopped up by military administrations. It is also true that “the appointed,” from time to time, have obstructed the activities of the government with a blind stubbornness.

On the other hand, it is also another fact in the political history of the country that one-party governments have a tendency to rule arbitrarily and in an authoritarian manner.

Indeed, one day, a democracy will be set up here where the executive will operate with democratic and judicial control. However, this will take time; as we have witnessed in the Gezi process, we will experience many times loss of rationality.

A similar kind of loss of wisdom is valid for also the Kanal Istanbul project. If you listen to pro-government attitudes, those people who oppose the Kanal Istanbul project are defending the interests of foreign states. They do not want a big and strong Turkey, etc.

We are already accustomed to this political language of anxieties, suspicions, reading of the other’s mind and irrational reactions. A public debate is being poisoned by this utter nonsense argument. Hence, the public is unable to discuss a giant project that will be built with its taxes.

If democracy is only limited to the ballot box, there is no need to discuss anyway. The prime minister has said, “This is a marvelous project,” and half of the electorate voted for the prime minister’s party. Those opposing the project have been stigmatized as toys of foreign powers. The business is over.

Whereas, instead of struggling with this strange argument, if we were able to hold a real discussion, then Professor Cemal Saydam’s statements would have been at the top of our agenda.

Saydam’s doctoral thesis is on oceanography. One of his expertise fields is the structural characteristics of Turkish seas. Saydam has said this project should not even be shelved; it should be forgotten altogether.

Reason? It is a specialty that can be seen in the world only in the Turkish straits system. Because of more flow of fresh water to the Black Sea, that sea is 30 centimeters higher than the Marmara Sea. Because the Black Sea is less salty than the Mediterranean, nature tries to balance the salt ratio through the streams in the straits. If a second channel is opened between the Black Sea and the Marmara, then the delicate equilibrium nature has set up over thousands of years will be disrupted.

So what, it could be said. Before going into technical details, let’s see what Professor Saydam has said, if Kanal Istanbul is built:

1. The salt ratio in the Black Sea will rise.

2. The Marmara’s deep waters will be without oxygen. The hydrogen-sulfur concentration will increase and a smell of rotten eggs will be all around Istanbul.

3. Sea life in İzmit Bay will totally come to an end.

4. The natural water sources of the island that will be formed with the opening of Kanal Istanbul will be contaminated with sea water.

Professor Saydam cannot comprehend the fact that a project to join two seas is being planned and no oceanographer has been consulted on what will happen if they are joined.

This is the oceanographic side of the business. There are other debatable areas of several dimensions of city planning, demographics and international law.

There are serious differences between democracy and an arbitrary populism. A participatory, pluralist democracy does not contain arbitrariness. It conflicts with the spending of the people’s taxes for a channel that will emit the smell of rotten eggs for centuries.

Also, it is the duty of the media to demand a scientific explanation from the government on Professor Saydam’s statements.

Özgür Mumcu is a columnist for daily Radikal, in which this piece was published July 25. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.