Minister slammed for claiming Kanal İstanbul will end ‘sea snot’ in Marmara Sea

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Turkish Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Adil Karaismailoğlu attracted criticism after arguing that the controversial Kanal İstanbul, a proposed artificial waterway in İstanbul that has triggered financial and environmental concerns, would end the “sea snot” spreading through the Marmara Sea, local media reported on Tuesday.

“The Black Sea is cleaner than the Marmara Sea. The rivers flowing into the Black Sea will flow into Marmara when Kanal İstanbul is completed. This will increase the quality of water in the Marmara Sea, thereby ending sea snot,” the minister said in televised remarks on Tuesday.

Expects blame pollution and climate change for the outbreak of a thick, slimy layer of mucus-like matter known as “sea snot,” which has been building up in the Sea of Marmara near İstanbul, raising concerns about the future of marine life and the fishing industry in the region.

Ekrem İmamoğlu, the mayor of İstanbul from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on Tuesday answered reporters’ questions, saying Karaismailoğlu’s remarks were far from scientific.

“Is there any [scientific] research [proving his claims]? … Maybe he saw this in a dream last night. This is serious. If he has any scientific proof, he should share it with us,” the mayor said, adding that he had sent a text to the minister earlier saying he was ready to exchange information on the matter.

İmamoğlu has been an outspoken critic of the controversial Kanal İstanbul, which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dubbed his “crazy project” and is planned to bisect the European side of İstanbul to connect the Black Sea to the Marmara and Mediterranean seas. The project is scheduled to be completed by 2023, despite widespread public opposition to its construction due to environmental and financial concerns.

Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government claim the channel is necessary for the safety of İstanbul’s Bosporus Strait, which sees busy marine traffic; however, critics of the project say it is aimed at generating money for pro-AKP circles and would destroy nature and could even worsen the earthquake risk in the city of more than 15 million people.

Naci Görür, a retired geology professor from İstanbul Technical University (ITU), who is also a member of the Science Academy –- an NGO in İstanbul that aims to promote, practice and uphold the principles of scientific merit, freedom and integrity -– stated on social media that the minister’s remarks were “surprising” and “sad.”

“I hope our transportation minister was joking about this,” Görür added.

According to a report from Marmara Environmental Monitoring (MAREM), the main reason for the sea snot outbreak in the Marmara is untreated sewage, which leads the upper levels of the seawater to reach higher temperatures, leading to sea snot buildup.

The first time the sea snot problem was documented in the Marmara was in 2007. Turkey’s ruling AKP is being harshly criticized for ignoring environmentalists’ concerns and allowing damage to the environment and marine life by pressing ahead with giant construction projects.

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