National Geographic reports on fatal threats posed by ambitious megaprojects to İstanbul, environment

Photo: National Geographic

Three megaprojects being built on the European side of İstanbul may collectively represent “ecocide” according to activists, and there are a host of potential side effects that could threaten the city itself, according to report by National Geographic released on Wednesday.

Umar Farooq wrote in the renowned magazine that the three projects — Canal İstanbul, an enormous canal designed to form an alternative channel between the Black Sea and Mediterranean; an as-yet-unnamed airport to handle 200 million passengers a year; and a large new highway passing the airport and crossing the canal to Europe — each cut through swathes of the area’s traditional forest.

“These three projects are interrelated and they feed each other. The idea behind them is to boost the value of properties through speculation, and to boost the construction sector, because that turns the gears of the economy,” activist and academic Cihan Baysal was quoted as saying. “We actually call these ‘ecocide’ projects.”

Murat Özçelik, a real estate company owner, agreed that the project would be good for the economy. “We don’t produce things anymore, we have little industry, so for reaching our 2023 goals, we need the construction sector,” he said.

The canal will fill crucial water sources used by the city with saltwater, meaning that the already stretched water reserves could be pulled to the breaking point.

“Today, around 40 percent of Istanbul’s water comes from the European side of the city, which, even according to the government’s own environmental assessments, will be severely impacted by the canal and airport,” the article said, and continued: “A drought in 2008 depleted the capacity of the city’s water reservoirs to 25 percent, and another in 2014 to 29 percent. Even in more wet years, Istanbul residents deal with water cuts that can last days.”

Many more hectares of water sources will be rendered unusable by the new airport, along with the destruction of the forests surrounding them.

Other experts warn that the canal could deal unforeseen damage to the wastewater system of the city, which is calibrated to minimise the leftover waste water and send it away from the area as soon as possible.

Environmental engineering professor Cemal Saydam was quoted as saying that a change in the flow of the Bosporus, the existing channel going through the city, could leave the waters without oxygen and smelling of rotten eggs.

“We are warning about this project, saying it’s not feasible due to oceanographic reasons,” Saydam said, and added, “If you decide to join the two seas you cannot think of the next five or ten years, or the next election, or the anniversary of the Turkish republic — you have to think in terms of geological time, because once you do this there will be no way to turn back.” (SCF with Ahval)

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