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Bad Idea: Istanbulada Edition

October 12, 2010

Or, in other words, “Bok My Prime Minister Says.”

Erdogan has a long history of saying weird things for the sake of saying them, only to have Gul or Davutoglu bail him out. These are usually foreign policy gaffes like saying there are hundreds of thousands of illegal Armenians in Turkey and the like. This one is purely domestic, and purely weird.

Erdogan, as well as more than a few others, want to build a canal along the western line of Istanbul. This canal would be mostly for naval transport, that is, oil tankers and other such megaships. It’s being purported to hedge against environmental disasters and traffic, and its a fantastically bad idea.

Hellooooo Strange Maps

So why is this such a bad idea, well, let me count the ways. First of all, with the construction of Blue Stream 2 in the next decade or so, there will be a lot less need for as many oil tankers (assuming Russia still works in a decade). So that’s a start on a way to relieve stress on the Bogaz. And everything else could be eased MUCH cheaper if one just invests more into railways and turns, say, Finike or Fetihye into another Ceyhan (the second part of this will never happen because tourism is such a money-maker, but hey. Just Ceyhan works, too. So it’s not cost-effective.

In addition, there was a whole lot of anger over the Third Bosphorus Bridge Project because of environmental concerns and endemic corruption. The rapscallions over at Turkey Emergency are real, real, not happy in their own inimitable way:

The third bridge on the Bosphorus is a project that is not a solution to the unbearable traffic in the city. But it’s a project for making more money by killing nature. When it rains, water will not be able to reach to the river basin. No oxygen will be produced. This is modernisation. This is civilisation.

Yes. We are commiting suicide. We just do not know it.

Needless to say, a whole new, multi-billion-dollar project won’t help at all and will just be more of the same. The Green Party of Turkey is charmingly trying to turn itself into something. If they had any sort of organization whatsoever, they would be making a big deal of this. But they don’t, so they won’t. And just for an example based on my own one class of marine geography: if you add a second waterway, the water level of the first one is going to go way down. This will help prevent flooding, sure. It will also help prevent water life. On the other hand, it will come one step closer  to turning Celal’s Milliyet column about the Bogaz drying up into a reality. Because we all want to live in an Orhan Pamuk book, I’m sure.

And finally, there’s the slight logistic problem of cutting off Istanbul from its Trakya hinterland. If you ask most people, the prime traffic issue in Istanbul is because of the bridges. The bridge back-up, mind you, is why there’s the talk of building the 3. Istanbul Bridge now. So adding a whole other bridge is just going to exacerbate this problem in a way the Istanbul Bridges can’t even begin to counter.

And oh you wish traffic was the only problem. The first thing I thought of when I heard of this idea was the scene in Batman Begins (or maybe Dark Knight, I get them confused) where the city of Gotham is cut off, with all bridges raised. Any design that makes a city more like Gotham is not a good idea.

If someone could please inform me of Istanbullu superheroes, that’d be awesome. Incredibly, incredibly, awesome.

So yeah, in case of any sort of disturbance or drama, the city can be cut off from any and all supply lines. This is bad in near any circumstance. It’s pretty awful in a region that has a history of getting crushed by earthquakes. Having this sort of damage occurring on an island is going to result in something terrible. Without logistical support, escape routs, or entry routes for aid workers or heavy machinery, an earthquaked Istanbul would simply not recover. It would make New Orleans’ Katrina look like the Chicago Flood.

I’m all for creative solutions to problems. But this is not creative. This is a 1980’s solution to a 2010 problem. More money, more heavy machinery, more fantastical solutions belong in the days when Superman would bail you out. It’s something for the History Channel, not present day.

Current trends of architecture, even future thinking, involve going smaller, not bigger. They involve making the city more symbiotic with its land and hinterland, not literally standing on an island turning its nose up at them.

Its a bad idea, and I don’t think it will come to fruition anyways. So I’m less frightened by the idea, I’m questioning the thought process that led up to it. Erdogan and the AKP have a certain view of the future of Turkey, there’s no question of that. But hopefully, there’s someone, somewhere in there, who understands how cities work. And understands that this probably ain’t it.

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