Kanal Istanbul Project


  • The Kanal Istanbul Project, an under-construction shipping route running parallel to the strategically critical Bosphorus Strait, is fast gaining prominence as a major divisive issue in Turkey.

  • The canal, once described by Erdogan himself as a “crazy project”, is being seen as a lifeline for the leader, who has been at Turkey’s helm since 2003 (first as Prime Minister and then as President), but has seen his popularity decline amid a sharp rise in pandemic deaths coupled with economic decline.

What is Kanal Istanbul Project?

Kanal Istanbul Project
Source: WorldAtlas
  • Erdogan, whose nearly two-decade-long rule has been marked by major improvements in Turkey’s infrastructure, now wants to dig up a new route through Istanbul connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, which his Justice and Development Party (AKP) is touting as a major new source of income for the country.
  • The planned Kanal Istanbul Project will run parallel to the Bosphorus Strait, a natural waterway that separates Europe and Asia, which for centuries has served as a key outlet for Russian ships entering the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Since 1936, passage through the Strait has been governed by the Montreux Convention, a multilateral treaty that allows ships to go across almost free of cost during peacetime, and which tightly restricts the movement of naval vessels.
  • The new canal, which will run on the European side of Bosphorus, will be safer and faster to navigate compared to the Bosphorus, making it a more attractive option for commercial ships, who will pay to pass through.
  • Analysts also believe that Erdogan would use the canal to circumvent Montreux Convention, by marketing the mega project to NATO allies as a legally kosher way of sending their warships into the Black Sea to counter Russia, their major geopolitical rival, all while attracting Chinese investment.

Criticisms of Kanal Istanbul Project

  • Montreux Convention is sacrosanct and should be left untouched.
  • Diverting public attention away from Turkey’s pandemic numbers
  • The critics have also pointed to investigative reports exposing real estate deals in which buyers from the Middle East have picked up prime plots of land
  • Canal would pose a threat to Istanbul’s water supply system of over four centuries
  • Bring polluted waters of the Black Sea into the Sea of Marmara, and ultimately in the Mediterranean.
  • Recent fall in the number of ships wanting to cross the Bosphorus

Back to basics

About Bosphorus Strait

  • It is a natural waterway that separates Europe and Asia, which for centuries has served as a key outlet for Russian ships entering the Mediterranean Sea.
  • It is located in northwestern Turkey and separates Thrace from Anatolia.
  • It is the narrowest strait in the world, connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara.
  • It is also known as the Strait of Istanbul.
  • It links the European part of the city from its Asian part and thus remains as a very strategic waterway in the region.
  • It has a significant place in the international maritime map as it is a busy waterway that witnesses the presence of many ships and oil tankers every day, in addition to the local fishing and passenger boats.
  • The name “Bosphorus” was derived from the Ancient Greek word “Bosporos,” meaning “cattle strait” or “ox ford”.

Montreux Convention

  • The Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits is a 1936 agreement that gives Turkey control over the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits and regulates the transit of naval warships.
  • The Convention guarantees the free passage of civilian vessels in peacetime, and restricts the passage of naval ships not belonging to Black Sea states.
  • The terms of the Convention have been a source of controversy over the years, most notably about the Soviet Union‘s military access to the Mediterranean Sea.

Source; Indian Express

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