Turkey unveils route of 45-kilometer ‘Istanbul Canal’

Above, a US Navy destroyer sails on Bosphorus Strait on its way to the Black Sea. Turkey hopes the new 45-kilometer canal would ease the pressure on Bosphorus, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. (Reuters)
Updated 15 January 2018

Turkey unveils route of 45-kilometer ‘Istanbul Canal’

ISTANBUL: The Turkish government on Monday unveiled the route of its planned new canal for Istanbul, a hugely ambitious 45-kilometer project designed to be its answer to the famed artificial shipping lanes in Panama or Egypt’s Suez.
The project, first announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan while he was prime minister in 2011, is by far the most complex of a string of new ventures for the city.
The government argues it will create attractive new living areas and take pressure off the Bosphorus Strait that splits the European and Asian sides of the city and is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
Transport and Communications Minister Ahmet Arslan said that the canal would begin in the Istanbul district of Kucukcekmece on the Sea of Marmara, where there is already an inland lake.
It will then head north toward the Sazlidere reservoir before emerging into the Black Sea just north of Durusu.
“The aim is to reduce the risks that can arise from vessels in the Bosphorus carrying dangerous materials,” Arslan told a televised news conference.
“Another aim is to create an urban transformation for our citizens in this area... and also to increase the attractiveness of Istanbul as a global metropolis.”
Some environmentalists have warned the project risks wrecking the maritime ecosystem and could also increase the risk of earthquakes in an area of high seismic activity.
But Arslan insisted that all precautions had been taken, saying the route had been chosen only after thorough earthquake risk assessment and computer modeling studies were undertaken.
Erdogan, whose rise to national political prominence began while he served as mayor of Istanbul, is presiding over a string of ambitious infrastructure projects in Turkey and especially its largest city.
With Erdogan fondly dubbing the schemes his “crazy projects,” the last years have already seen the opening of metro and road tunnels underneath the Bosphorus as well as a third bridge across the waterway.
Construction of a massive new airport is meanwhile proceeding, with the facility set to see its first flight land in late February before opening officially in October.


Thousands return to government-seized areas in northwest Syria: state media

Updated 50 min 27 sec ago

Thousands return to government-seized areas in northwest Syria: state media

  • The Syrian Observatory reported “around 3,000 people” going home from other areas under regime control
  • The Idlib region is one of the last holdouts of opposition forces

DAMASCUS: Thousands have returned to their hometowns in northwest Syria after military advances by government loyalist against militants and allied rebels, state media said Sunday.
“Thousands of citizens return to their villages and towns of the northern Hama countryside and the southern Idlib countryside,” state news agency SANA said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, reported “around 3,000 people” going home from other areas under regime control.
Since August 31, a cease-fire announced by regime backer Russia has largely held in northwestern Syria, though the Observatory has reported sporadic bombardment.
SANA said the returns came amid “government efforts to return the displaced to their towns and villages.”
The Idlib region of around three million people, many of them dispaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition to forces backing Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Moscow announced the cease-fire late last month after four months of deadly violence that displaced 400,000 people, most of whom fled north within the jihadist-run bastion, according to the United Nations.
Regime forces had chipped away at the southern edges of the jihadist-run stronghold throughout August, retaking towns and villages in the north of Hama province and the south of Idlib province.
Syria’s civil war has killed more than 370,000 people since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.
Assad’s regime now controls more than 60 percent of the country after notching up a series of victories against rebels and jihadists with key Russian backing since 2015.
But a large chunk of Idlib, fully administered by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate since January, as well as a Kurdish-held swathe of the oil-rich northeast, remain beyond its reach.