The process for preparing the environmental impact report on Turkey's Canal Istanbul megaproject was one of the most transparent in the country, Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum said Thursday.
"The environmental impact assessment report for Canal Istanbul and its process have been one of the most well-attended, transparent processes," Kurum told a press conference in the capital Ankara.
Canal Istanbul is one of Turkey's most strategic megaprojects, which is meant to reduce potential risks posed by ships carrying dangerous goods through the Bosphorus Strait.
The 45-kilometer (nearly 28-mile) canal, which will be built west of the city center on the European side of Istanbul province, is projected to have a capacity of 160 vessel transits a day.
Kurum noted that all of the meetings regarding the report were held openly and transparently with all public institutions.
He said as a result of studies, it could be seen that calculations and evaluations of the project are based on a "sufficient level of data and information" and the environmental impact report has taken the "necessary measures to prevent its negative impacts on environment."
He stressed that the utmost care was shown to the environment.
"We approached the air, water, forests, soil, green areas, lakes, sea and ecological balance of Istanbul with an strategy to protect the environment and nature, and we have carried out all details with this sensitivity."
Kurum added that during the process of preparing the report, municipalities, academicians, environmental specialists, institutions and NGOs were also present at the meetings.
"The environmental impact assessment report is 1,595 pages, with an addendum of 16,000 pages," he said, adding 200 scientists supported the report and offered suggestions.
He highlighted ship traffic in the Bosphorus and said on average, 150 vessels transit it daily.
"Expansion of vessel sizes as a result of technological developments and an increase in the number of transits of vessels carrying dangerous materials pose threats to Istanbul, our world heritage," he said.
Kurum also noted that as the technology improves, even though the number of vessels will decrease, their heaviness will increase, and this will create a greater risk of accidents in the Bosphorus as the maneuverability of the ships decreases.
- Claims of triggering earthquake
Touching on claims that the Canal Istanbul project would trigger a large-scale earthquake in the city, Kurum said: "Claiming that a 21-meter deep canal would trigger fault lines at depths of 20 and 7 kilometers is indeed a discourse far from being scientific."
He added that in the process of preparing the environmental impact assessment, reports were prepared not only on earthquakes but also on all risks, including tsunamis, disasters and floods.
Kurum noted that in order to see how the canal would be affected by an earthquake, they conducted simulations based on earthquakes that have occurred over the past 2,475 years, when normally simulations are done by going only 145 and 475 years back.
Later in the day, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) said on Twitter that there is no active fault line on the route of Canal Istanbul.
Kurum also refuted claims that 1.2 million people will come to Istanbul because of the project and said only 500,000 people will be allowed to settle in the region.
He noted that the surrounding region will be built with a smart city concept and will become a tourist attraction with the environment and buildings displaying signs of traditional Turkish culture.
Reporting by Zehra Aydin Turapoglu, Yildiz Nevin Gundogmus and Ferdi Turkten
Writing by Fahri Aksut and Sena Guler