Istanbul Canal’s Impacts on on Cultural and Natural Heritage
For information on the effects of the Istanbul Canal Project on cultural and natural heritage, you can take a look at the article below.
The region called “Yenişehir” with the Istanbul Canal Project and the 1/100.000 Scale Landscape Map Amendment dated 13.12.2019 is on an area where the Asian and European continents meet. Therefore, it contains significant archaeological findings that can help to understand the relations between the two continents starting from the Paleolithic Age. Küçükçekmece Lagoon Lake has an ecosystem that includes the Sazlıdere Basin and the integrated areas around it, the eastern part of the Terkos basin and the fossil sand dunes on the Black Sea coast; since its north and south are affected by different climatic zones and are on different migration routes, it contains areas that need to be protected and hosts rich biodiversity.
The route of the Canal directly coincides with some of the archaeological and natural sites. Since the announcement of the project in 2011, the protection conditions of the region are weakened, and cultural and natural assets are put at risk with legal and administrative regulations. With the determination of the boundaries of the Reserve Building Area in 2012, the boundaries of protection were demanded to be limited. With the regulation made in 2016, 12,688 hectares of agricultural land, which was defined as agricultural land in the 2009 plan was deemed appropriate to use for purposes other than agriculture. In 2014, the archaeological sites around Küçükçekmece Lagoon Lake were transferred to TOKI. In 2018, the common nature of pasture areas was eliminated and they were registered with TOKI. Finally, while the status of the Inner- Outer Beach Natural Protected Area was updated as a “Qualified Natural Protection Area”, the boundaries were set to fit with the Istanbul Canal Project. These significant examples reveal how the protection conditions of the different characteristics of the region’s bio-cultural diversity have been worsened in this process.
Massive projects such as the Northern Marmara Highway and the 3rd Airport have seriously damaged the bio-cultural diversity. The Istanbul Canal and Yenişehir projects will completely change the remaining environment in which cultural heritage and natural assets coexist, and destroy the components of the bio-cultural heritage in the region, or eliminate their value by moving them. As a result, the integrity of the cultural heritage and natural environment will be destroyed, and the archaeological assets that have not yet been identified in the archaeological potential of the region will be lost during the works.
A significant part of the protection site around the Yarimburgaz Cave will be destroyed with the Canal excavation. The rock mass inside the cave is at risk because the valley is not wide enough at this point. The ancient settlement area near Dursunköy, which has been recently identified by the Conservation Regional Board and has not yet been studied scientifically is at high risk as it is on the route of the Canal. The Küçükçekmece-Avcılar highway crossing planned on the Istanbul Canal passes through the archaeological sites to the west of the lagoon lake. The archaeological park decision made for all archaeological sites cannot provide adequate protection with the construction-oriented perspective of the plan change. According to the EIA Report, structures such as historic bridges, roads, bunkers, and bastions on the route of the Istanbul Canal will be relocated. It should not be forgotten that the protection of cultural assets in their original environment is essential. Functional changes brought by the plan decisions will destroy the water drainage basin and the agricultural lands with rich biological diversity, and the region will be completely urbanized. With the Istanbul Airport constructed by destroying the Northern Forests within the Reserve Area, the 80-year planning model of Istanbul based on linear development has disappeared, and the continuation of the Northern Forests and the rural landscape is under grave risk. As a matter of fact, it seems inevitable that this destruction process will consume all cultural landscape and natural areas and destroy the bio-cultural life with the Istanbul Canal and Yenişehir plans. The north of the planning area, the Black Sea coasts, and the Marmara coast are shown as fill areas by the application of the legend of Coastal Facilities Areas. When these fillings are completed, the natural landscape will completely change and clues about the history of the region will disappear completely.
The decisions and processes that will cause the burial of areas of archaeological and ecological importance to under the filling, increase in population density and buildings, and change the natural environment with transportation decisions under the definition of the Istanbul Canal and Yenişehir are not in accordance with the principles adopted and recommended by conservation organizations around the world. It is necessary to establish an understanding that the bio-cultural environment in the geography we live in does not only belong to the people living in this geography, but is owned by the whole world equally, and that everyone is responsible for protecting and developing them.