A new canal in Istanbul

30 May

When the president of France is asking himself how to win the next year election to keep his position, he comes up with the idea of get his popular wife pregnant. Brilliant, right ? Now, when the prime minister of Turkey asks himself the same question, he comes up with a way much crazier idea : transform Istanbul in an Island.

Concretely, the project announced one month ago by the prime minister Erdogan is huge. 45 km long, 150 m wide and 25 m deep, a new canal is gonna be dug on the european side, allowing  boats to use this alternative (but paying) path. But the plan is not only to create a new delta, also  : two new cities neighboring the actual one (at each extremity),  the construction of a new bridge, an airport… before the end of 2023 (which correspond to the centennial anniversary of Turkey’s proclamation a republic in 1923). A project that commentators estimate at more than 10 billions dollars.

Symbolically, it’s also very much significant. Analysing this idea from a freudian point of view, it says a lot about prime minister Erdogan’s childhood. Religiousely speaking (and this subject matters a lot in Turkey, especially for AKP, Erdogan’s party) it’s defying God himself. On an international relations point of view, it’s another affirmation of the turkish sense of nationalism and the importance for this country to keep a good spot in the modernity race (“Dubaï and Co : stay put, here we come”) and to show how much the politics are intented to maintain (and reinforce) their control over their territory. Finally it’s also the ultimate way to testify that Turkey is financially healthy. Erdogan insisted saying that “The project will be financed entirely by national resources.” Environementaly,  it’s also not such a good idea of course. Allowing more and more boats to pass while supressing some woodlands is going to increase Istanbul’s carbon footprint (which is already enormous). And polliticaly ? Well it’s clearly sending the message that the turkish people doesn’t have a word in the gestion of his own territory.

Is it really going to happen ?

Future only will say. But legally, Montreux Convention (that regulates international sea navigation through the Straits) might be a tiny obstacle in Erdogan big plan. All the signatories will have to approve the idea of Turkey compelling foreigners’ boat to use the new canal. If they don’t, well, we can bet that the idea is going to be way less seductive if no money can be make out of it once it’s done.


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