Turkey says Istanbul mayor has no right to withdraw from canal project

Turkey’s government said Ekrem Imamoğlu, the opposition mayor of Istanbul, has no right to pull out of a project to build a $10-billion canal through the city.

A protocol between the government and the municipality was approved by the city assembly and any decision to withdraw from it must also be approved by the same body, said Murat Kurum, minister of urban planning and the environment, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Imamoğlu, who was elected in June, said he was pulling the municipality out of the project this week, after a government committee approved an environmental assessment report, Dünya newspaper reported on Monday.

The mayor has criticised the government’s plans, saying the canal would be an environmental disaster, cause traffic chaos and lead to corruption in land deals and real estate development. The protocol was approved before Imamoğlu took power.

Kanal Istanbul, known as the “Crazy Project”, was announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2011. His government had pledged to complete construction by 2023, Turkey’s centenary year, but the project has been beset by a series of delays and lack of financing.