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Canal Istanbul: Still hyped, still 'crazy'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is dusting off plans for the megaproject Canal Istanbul ahead of the constitutional referendum as an example of what a strong president could achieve.
Russian Navy's reconnaissance ship Liman of the Black Sea fleet sails in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey, October 21, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer - RTX2PW0R
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For the past six years, Turkey’s leadership has trumpeted a “crazy project” — Canal Istanbul, a man-made waterway — to ease congested traffic in the Bosporus. Announced ahead of the July 2011 elections, which handed Recep Tayyip Erdogan a third consecutive premiership, the project was touted as a major feat of engineering and a symbol of Erdogan’s “master” period in politics. The government has kept the hype alive, but Canal Istanbul is yet to transcend the realm of dreams, lacking both a feasibility study and construction plans on paper.

Canal Istanbul does not appear in official investment plans, but transport ministers have routinely referenced it in budgetary presentations in parliament, complete with illustrations of Ankara's vision of it. Most recently, it was listed among the infrastructure projects that the government plans to finance through the newly created and highly controversial sovereign wealth fund. Although the project remains a dream at present, mere talk of it has already sparked a flurry of land selling and buying in areas north of Istanbul.

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