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An Uber-Crazy Project Proposal for Istanbul: Relocating the Bosphorus
We haven’t heard much of the so-called “the crazy project” for Istanbul since the general election of 2011. I would like to present my humble contributions to its fulfillment, just in case it is still in the works. My goal: to make the crazy project even crazier.
In case you have forgotten, the project consists of opening a canal somewhere on the European side to connect the Marmara and Black Seas. It includes the construction of new buildings, housing estates, and districts.
My suggestion would solve the city’s traffic problem and create a billion-dollar (perhaps a trillion-dollar!) economy.
So, what is the main source of traffic congestion in Istanbul? The bridges spanning the Bosphorus, right? There are only two of them, and they form a huge bottleneck. The congestion on the bridges spreads to the rest of megacity in waves. As the Bosphorusis much wider than the tiny rivers in European cities, it is difficult to build spans from shore to shore. During the Republican era, we managed to build only two of them, and the third has only been auctioned recently.
Now, I want you to stretch your imagination. If building bridges won’t solve the traffic problem, what else can we do? We can fill in the Bosphorus! Yes, you read that right. We can fill the Bosphoruswith stones and earth and make it a completely flat area. Once reclaimed, we can build as many roads and buildings on the new surface as we like.
Some romantics might oppose this idea, arguing that “the Bosphorusis the pearl of Istanbul.” Don’t worry, we can silence them easily. No, not with tear gas, but with a small change in the Channel Istanbul Project: the project (which was presented with cool 3D animations before the 2011 elections) can be redesigned exactly to look like the Bosphorus. We just need to build a meandering, deeper channel instead of a boring straight one. Fait accompli! As we dig deeper, we can then use the soil we get to fill up the Bosphorus. If necessary, we might bring earth and stones from the eastern mountains. Thus, we can relocate the Bosphorus.
Just imagine: 100kilometers of empty land in the heart of Istanbul! That land would be worth $500 billion if we sold it for $5,000 per square meter. Think of the buildings that would sprawl there, the shopping malls, plazas and “recreational areas” as, Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek calls them. The income generated from this project would double the size of Turkey’s economy to say the least.
What is more, the traffic problem would vanish. It would finally silence the snobbish hippies whining about not being able to walk in the city. They would be able to jog between the continents not just once a year during the Eurasia Marathon, but any time they liked.
If it can go beyond abstract ideas and physically connect Europe with Asia, Turkey would be an obvious choice for a Nobel Prize – in peace, economy or physics… we could take our pick.
There is actually another issue, but nothing has been said of it. With this project, the asset value of the rich, who have occupied the waterfronts until today, will diminish automatically. We can give the waterfronts of the new Bosphorusto anyone we like. Some extreme leftist groups might still argue that the waterfronts must be owned by the people. If so, we can save one side for the people and the other side for luxury residences. Let’s elaborate on this later.
It is surprising that those who get thrilled when they see an unoccupied piece of urban land have not taken note of this opportunity. I would have thought that contractors in search of different projects would already have presented this idea to Prime Minister Erdoğan already. Turkey has to translate its capacity to raise buildings on green fields into the capacity to turn seas into construction areas by 2023. Otherwise, we cannot maintain the current growth rates.
The Housing Development Administration of Turkey, TOKİ, has proved itself in relocating neighborhoods, schools or military quarters within our cities. Now it is time for it to prove the world that it can also relocate the Bosphorus.
In a nutshell, I believe that Turkey has to develop crazier projects every day. They should be so crazy that 20,000 years later archeologists examining Istanbul wonder at how the crazy Turks managed to relocate the straits, formed naturally through millennia, in just five years. Just like they are still wondering how the Egyptian pyramids were built.
Turkey should welcome the presidential elections with such uber-crazy projects.
The idea of filling the Bosphorusdoes not belong to me. It was originally used as a thought experiment by Professor İlhan Tekeli at a conference during the Istanbul Biennial on 17 October 2012. He gave the message that free space within a city could be an important tool for happiness. After I wrote this commentary, I came across similar discussions on social commentary websites as well. Here is an example (in Turkish): http://www.uludagsozluk.com/k/istanbul-bo%C4%9Faz%C4%B1-n%C4%B1-doldurmak/
*Esen Çağlar, Economic Studies, Analyst