Nicaragua has approved a route for a new ship canal to link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans costing $40 billion. The project would compete with the Panama Canal and could completely change transoceanic trade.
The plan would see the canal finished in 2019 and beginning commercial operations in 2020, Reuters cites a member of the Nicaraguan steering committee Telemaco Talavera.
The plan for the canal is expected to be 172 miles (278 km) long from the mouth of the Brito River on the Pacific side to the Punto Gorda River on the Caribbean coast. When constructed it would be more than three times longer than the Panama Canal built a century ago.
The canal will be between 230 meters and 520 meters (755 feet to 1,706 feet) wide and 27.6 meters (90 feet) deep. The plan will be finalized after ground studies due to be completed by the end of the year.
The creation of two free-trade zones, and two ports linked by a railway along with an international airport close to the canal would involve "a formative change in job creation," the BBC quotes Paul Oquist, a close adviser to President Daniel Ortega on the project.According to government estimates the project would pull more than 400,000 people above the poverty line by 2018.
Opponents of the plan complain about the social and environmental impact. In particular, it is feared Lake Nicaragua, which is a strategic fresh water source, could suffer after the transoceanic canal is opened.
The canal plan was proposed by the HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co Ltd (HKND Group). HKND is headed by ambitious Chinese lawyer Wang Jing, who also heads China’s Xinwei Telecom Enterprise Group.