Istanbul Canal’s Impacts on Climate and Environment
You can click on the titles below to get information about the effects of the Istanbul Canal Project on the climate and the environment.
The most significant negative effects of the Istanbul Canal will be on the ecosystems and living species. The project area includes ecosystems that contain many habitats such as sea, lake, stream, swamp, dune, reed, forest, agricultural lands, pasture, maquis, and bluffs. There are 14 endemic species in the ecosystem, 119 species included in the Annex II list, and 76 species in Annex III list of Bern Convention. The examination of the sections of the EIA Report on ecosystems and living species contain many deficiencies. But the most important one is the determination of the project impact area since it was not determined ecologically. The project impact area is determined based on the urban reserve area when it should have been based on the entire Marmara Region.
In the EIA Report, the impact area limited in terms of the inventory of living species was studied. However, the whole area was not visited for the flora and fauna inventory, and observations and measurements were only from the sample areas. As a result, the flora and fauna inventories and the species in the impact area could not be identified, and the suggestions for the measures to be taken to eliminate the adverse effects remain insufficient.
The only suggestion made to eliminate the adverse effects of the project on species is moving them. The suggestion of moving, presented so as to make the project with devastating effects possible, is not scientific. However, moving can be a correct approach to protect the species threatened by natural reasons. Moving the species narrows the genetic diversity. Additionally, it is uncertain whether the relocated species will adapt to their new habitats. Furthermore, while there are species in the project area to be kept under protection in accordance with the Bern Convention, to which our country is a party; the Convention has been violated. The forests of Istanbul, which have been decreased by 27,000 hectares in the last 50 years, will be further decreased despite the fact that some of the forests that the Canal will destroy are also protected forests. The public opinion is tried to be directed by claiming that the economic return of the Istanbul Canal will be very high. However, the ecological cost is considered as “0” in the benefit-cost analysis of the Canal. The real cost of the Canal will be revealed if the ecosystem, habitat, and living species destroyed and the services are also calculated. Finally, the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 has shown how fragile megacities with large populations are against disasters. Istanbul has been the city most affected by the pandemic in our country. Even only this reveals that the Istanbul Canal and Yenişehir projects, which will increase the population of Istanbul, should be abandoned. What needs to be done is to give up the investments that will make Istanbul an attraction center, and to keep the population in Anatolia with the local investments.
The EIA Report of the Istanbul Canal does not contain any analysis, assessment, or modeling studies on physical geography, geomorphology, atmosphere, air, climate, and climate change. The EIA method is ineffective and inadequate. The impacts of such a mega project that tends to change the geography in a very significant geographical region with millions of years of evolvement cannot be assessed with these methods.
There should be separate, topic-specific modeling and estimations or predictions for each subject, subtopic, or even each data and item. The cumulative effects of this model and estimation results should be evaluated separately and together for both the present and the future. Possible differences or similarities and causality must be spatially and temporally revealed by advanced multivariate statistical methods. According to the Representative Concentration Path (RCP) scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which considers the changes in the radiative forcing values of greenhouse gas accumulations in the atmosphere, changes in the meteorological parameters and sea level in Istanbul and its surroundings and the canal interaction should be assessed in the EIA Report. Climate change modeling should be determined not only according to mean or total values but also separately for both variability and extremes. Model studies should also be compared with other physical oceanographic analyzes such as sea level, waves, currents, and the outputs of climate models should be used as inputs in their modeling. The EIA report does not mention that the Canal will cause evaporation fog by causing evaporation in the hot months and prolong the radiation or advection-based fogs in the region, resulting in more intense and long-term fogs. However, according to a Scientific Assessment of in the Light of Çanakkale Example for the “the potential of the Istanbul Canal of creating vapor fog, hosting radiation and advection fogs, extending their life span and ensuring their spread to larger areas and/ or controlling them”, there is a possibility that such fogs start to form around the Canal and Istanbul Airport, in addition to those that occur in and around Terkos Lake in the Istanbul Plateau, and their formation increases over time.
For the Istanbul Canal Project, an environmental impact assessment is required to determine the route and measures to prevent adverse effects to the environment or to minimize the damage as per the effective legislation. The project can only be realized upon receiving the EIA Positive Report from the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization. The report should declare the project’s effects on the environment are acceptable as a result of the measures to be taken and in accordance with the relevant legislation and scientific principles. The environment is a biological, physical, social, economic, and cultural medium where living beings maintain their relationships and interact with each other throughout their lives. Therefore, the EIA Report of the Istanbul Canal Project should contain measures to prevent the negative impacts on the mentioned environments or minimize them to an acceptable level according to legislation and scientific principles.
It can be asserted that the EIA Positive Decision regarding the Istanbul Canal Project was not obtained by considering many international agreements, laws and regulations, prohibitions, and limitations. Various legally binding documents such as the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution, the Convention on the Control of Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, the Forest Law, the Pasture Law, the Law on Soil Conservation and Land Use, the Law on the Protection of Cultural and Natural Assets, Coastal Law, Fisheries Law, Groundwater Law, Excavation Soil Construction and Demolition Waste Control Regulation, Regulation on the Protection of Wetlands, Regulation on the Protection of Drinking and Potable Water Basins, Water Pollution Control Regulation, Regulation on Receiving Waste from Ships and Control of Wastes are not considered.In addition, it was not obtained by assessing the duly determinations by the experts, the proposals for measures that will reduce the negative impacts to an acceptable level and the opinions of various persons and organizations. Therefore, a filing can be made to the administrative jurisdiction regarding the EIA Positive Decision.
The legislator was contented with stating the basic principles in many laws related to environmental law, envisaged the regulation of limits, prohibitions and obligations in technical matters, the use of the representatives of the relevant institutions and organizations, faculty members and experts in the preparation of the EIA Report, and allowed the citizens to voice their opinions and suggestions.
Some of the suggestions in the EIA Report are in conflict with the provisions of the current legislation.
It is set forth in the Environment Law No. 2872 and “Regulation on the Protection of Drinking-Potable Water Basins” published in the Official Gazette dated 28.10.2017 and numbered 30224 by the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs and the “Regulation on Drinking Water Basins” by the Directorate General of ISKI that water resources must be protected with care. While these regulations are still valid, the complete elimination of the Sazlıdere Dam creates a conflict.
It has been decided to use the excavation wastes to be generated by the Istanbul Canal Project as coastal filling material on the Black Sea coast. However, using the excavation wastes as a filling is prohibited in accordance with Article 13 of the “Regulation on the Control of Excavation Soil, Construction and Demolition Wastes”, published in the Official Gazette dated 18.03.2004 and numbered 25406, as amended on 18.06.2018.
It is stated that the wastes that will be generated as a result of the planned dredging process in Küçükçekmece Lake will be disposed to a suitable dumping area in the Black Sea and/or the Marmara Sea, after the necessary dewatering process “…in accordance with the “Regulation on the Environmental Management of Dredging Material” published in the Official Gazette dated 14.01.2020 and numbered 31008…” However, the scope of this regulation is limited to “dredging activities carried out on the sea and coastal areas and the seaside of the coastal line of river mouths”. Therefore, it should be impossible to remove the dredging material resulting from this dredging from the base of the Küçükçekmece lake in accordance with the provisions of this regulation.
The sludge waste to be dredged from Küçükçekmece Lake should be considered within the scope of “Waste Management Regulation”, published in the Official Gazette dated 02.04.2015 and numbered 29314 due to its nature. However, paragraph 1.ö of Article 5 of this Regulation under the title of General Principles prohibits discharging of the bottom mud of Küçükçekmece Lake into the marine environment stating that “It is forbidden to pollute the environment by discharging the wastes into the soil, seas, lakes, rivers and similar receiving environments, directly using as filling and storing”.
According to the Administrative Jurisdiction Procedure Law, a lawsuit can be filed for the annulment of administrative transactions due to one of the aspects of authority, form, reason, subject, and purpose (Article: 2/I). Administrative jurisdiction is limited to the supervision of the legality of administrative acts and transactions; it is not competent to carry out a review of expediency. A judicial decision cannot be made in a manner that restricts the execution of the executive duty in accordance with the form and principles set forth in the laws, in the nature of administrative action and transaction, or in a manner that removes the discretionary power of the administration (Article: 2/II).
When there is a legal action against the EIA Positive Decision in the administrative jurisdiction, whether there is a violation(s) of technical regulations in the legislation and scientific principles, will be determined in the light of the expert reports, prepared by appointed experts from the academic staff and experts and specialists.
Benefits from Canal Istanbul, in the form of the reduction of the load on the Bosporus traffic and the formation of residential areas around the Canal, are expected.
On the other hand, there are investments (opening of the Canal, disposal of excavation, reinforced concrete retaining, bridge constructions, etc.) and operational costs. These items are estimated to cost a substantial amount. Therefore, it should be underlined that since such a mega-project will use a significant part of the country’s resources and the alternative uses of these resources will be waived, the alternative uses of these resources should be discussed. In addition, the current users in the region (mainly those living on agriculture) will face financial and social losses by this project. The most important point is that such a project will bring along very severe ecological damage. Furthermore, this destruction can be catastrophic. Where such catastrophic costs are likely to arise, the sensible thing to do is applying the “precautionary” principle. There is no financial feasibility study for the mentioned project. The current EIA study provides very partial information on the economic dimension of the project. For this project, it should be emphasized that many parameters are unknown, the assumptions and models have not been sufficiently studied and discussed by the scientific community and the public. This project brings irreversible ecological risks along, and such a “mega” project in terms of budgetary and impacts should not be rushed.
In the EIA Report, the potential for fogging and low visibility problems that may be caused by the Canal, strong cross-wind, and turbulence problems were not considered, air pollution and acid rain and their effects on both environmental and public health were not assessed, the urban climate and urban heat island effect of the settlements and the danger of loss of life at the level of natural disaster that they may cause have not been examined, and the possible operational effects on the wind and hence on Istanbul Airport have not been taken into account.
A modeling study on the meteorological and climatic parameters of the city and air quality was conducted to determine the significant possible effects of the Canal and its surroundings. In this study, it has been observed that the Istanbul Canal and the satellite cities to be built around it will adversely affect the city climate and the air quality, and pose a danger for the historical and natural texture of the city and public health. Since a dense urbanization area in the southern parts of the Canal is planned and new urbanization areas around the Canal are foreseen, it has been determined that the incidence of heat stokes in Istanbul will increase in the city heat island and therefore in today’s increasing frequency, intensity and duration of heatwaves. In the region, due to the mist fog caused by the warm water surface of the Canal and, especially in autumn, and Canal water surface, which is smoother than the natural plant surface in winter, the crosswinds coming from the dominant wind directions such as northeastern winds and southwestern winds blowing towards the north-south runways of the Istanbul Airport will strengthen, and the efficiency of the airport will be lower than the values predicted by ICAO. Additionally, additional emissions to be emitted from the ships in the Canal and satellite cities to be built in the direction of the air systems in the west of Istanbul may cause air pollution and acid precipitation to a dangerous extent that will threaten the people of Istanbul (due to leukemia, upper respiratory diseases, etc.), Terkos and other water resources, along with the historical peninsula and the northern forests.
In the vicinity of the Mega-City Istanbul, water scarcity is becoming a problem even today. Quantity and quality of groundwater reserves will be directly affected by the population increase and possible climate change. Thereby, their protection is of vital importance. The groundwater flow and sat water intervention model is one of the most significant researches through its assessment of the impact of the Istanbul Canal Project on water resources and the design of the measures to be taken against possible negative effects. The EIA Report approved in January 2020 and the “Groundwater Model Final Report” annexed was examined. The thoughts on the report are summarized below.
There are significant deficiencies in the geological/hydrogeological model of the land, the size of the selected model area, and the boundary conditions. The model is a trial as it is. Indeed, those who prepared the report stated that the report prepared with limited data was a preliminary assessment, and it was necessary to make a detailed groundwater model at the final project stage.
Significant salinization problems in karst aquifers with strategic importance on the right bank of the planned Canal are addressed. Our determinations and opinions comply with this. The left bank of the Canal (west) not being included in the south model area is a significant deficiency. There will be irrigation water problems in the existing water use, especially in agricultural areas, due to the groundwater level decreases in the Canal route and the impact area.
It is not an acceptable scientific approach that the environmental impacts along with the effects on the city’s drinking water reservoirs and groundwater of the irremediable Istanbul Canal were not adequately investigated at this stage, in other words, to be guided by only a preliminary assessment.
The EIA report does not evaluate the environmental impacts of the Canal in a comprehensive, sufficient, and sensitive manner to address every issue. The assessment is incomplete in some parts and misleading in others. The construction of the Canal will primarily cause water flow budget change between the Bosporus, a natural strait, and the Marmara Sea. The surface flow rate from the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea will decrease by 16%, whereas the bottom flow rate from the Marmara Sea to the Black Sea will increase by 32%.
The Canal alone will carry 25% of the total flow rate to the Marmara Sea with 5,500 m3/sec. This flow will be in the most sensitive part of the Marmara Sea, Küçükçekmece, which will be most affected by pollution. This flow will discharge 107 tons of nitrogen equivalent to the wastewater load of 13 million people and 9.5 tons of phosphorus equivalent to the wastewater load of 7 million people. In this sense, the Canal is no different from any wastewater discharge for the Marmara Sea with much graver impact.
On the coastline where the Canal will meet the Marmara Sea, there are wastewater treatment facilities. In these wastewater treatment facilities, an average of 1.15 million m3/day of wastewater generated by a population of 8.85 million, corresponding to 55% of the total population of Istanbul, is treated. Since these facilities discharge the treated wastewater into the Marmara Sea, they are advanced biological treatment facilities obliged to remove nitrogen and phosphorus along with organic matter in compliance with the regulations. The wastewater treated in these facilities contains 11.1 tons N/day and 1.19 tons P/day in total and constitutes only 0.24% of the flow rate to be carried by the Canal. In other words, the Canal will flow a nitrogen and phosphorus load equivalent to 8-9 times the treated wastewater generated by a population of 8,85 million. It is inevitable that this will cause permanent and fatal damage to the Marmara Sea.
The Canal will disable the Sazlıdere Dam due to its route. The Sazlıdere Dam has a water accumulation capacity of 88.7 million m3 / year water and supply water for a population of over 1,350,000, corresponding to 8.5% of the Istanbul population. When the Sazlıdere Dam is disabled, either a search for a new water resource will be undertaken for Istanbul or the amount of water supplied per person will be reduced from 180 l/person.day to 164 l/ person.day.
According to the statements, approximately 1.1 billion m3 of excavation will happen alongside the Canal route, which will be used as a coastal filling for 38 kilometers (23.61 mi) along the Black Sea coast.
It is probable that a significant portion of the loose excavation soil will dissolve both in the transportation phase and into the filling area, mix with and spread to the marine environment, then be transported into the Marmara Sea via the Canal. There is a risk that this material will settle on the coastline of the Marmara Sea, destroying the viability at the bottom layer.
Dredging of approximately 53 million m3 will take place in Küçükçekmece Lake, which is on the route of the Canal. The bottom material to be dredged is a sludge waste with high pollution. Since this material cannot be discharged directly into the sea, it is suggested that it be dewatered in structures like simple settling tanks and discharged into the sea by barges. It is impossible to expect to dewater the bottom sludge, which has the appearance of wet soil with a solid matter content of 22% using a simple settling principle. Since a significant amount of the polluted water of the lake will be carried along with the sludge during the dredging, the 53 million m3 volume provided for waste will increase 2-3 times, reaching 100 million m3. The actions to be taken on the resulting water is also ignored. Since this water will be polluted, it cannot be discharged before being treated in accordance with the current regulations. Most importantly, the material to be dredged is a sludge waste, it should not be discharged into the sea.
It is evident that the settlement to be established and spread around the Canal can easily attract a population of 1.5-2 million. This population will use energy, generate around 1,500-2,000 tons of solid waste daily, further complicate the vehicle traffic in Istanbul, cause air pollution, and increase CO2 emissions. Above all, the population of 1.5 million around the Canal will need 270,000 m3 of water per day and 100 million m3 per year, seizing Istanbul’s limited water resources. To imagine the water demand in a more concrete way, for a population of 1.5 million, the water need of the settlement around the Canal campus will be 270,000 m3 per day and 100 million m3 per year. These values are concrete indicators of the additional problems that the Canal will create in Istanbul.
Kanal civarında oluşacak ve yayılacak yerleşimin rahatlıkla 1,5-2 milyon dolayında bir nüfus çekebileceği aşikârdır. Bu nüfus enerji kullanacaktır; günde yaklaşık 1.500-2.000 ton arası katı atık üretecektir; İstanbul’daki araç trafiğini daha da karmaşık hâle sokacak, hava kirliliğine yol açacak, CO2 emisyonunu artıracaktır. Hepsinden önemlisi, 1,5 milyonluk kanal yerleşkesi nüfusunun günde 270.000 m3, yılda ise 100 milyon m3 su ihtiyacı olacak ve İstanbul’un kısıtlı su kaynaklarına el konacaktır. Daha somut bir biçimde su talebini göz önüne getirebilmek için, 1,5 milyonluk bir nüfus için kanal yerleşkesinin su ihtiyacı günde 270.000 m3, yılda ise 100 milyon m3 mertebesinde olacaktır. Bu değerler kanalın İstanbul’a yaratacağı ilave sorunların somut göstergeleridir.
These evaluations reveal that the environmental effects that the Canal will cause in the habitat, nature, surroundings of Istanbul, and especially in the Marmara Sea are irreversible and fatal. Therefore the choice should be “either Istanbul or the Canal”.