Last month, Nicaragua announced the start of work on a canal that has been referred to as “The Grand Canal of Nicaragua”.
The canal, which received approval from a Nicaraguan committee earlier this summer, will link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans with a 172 mile waterway that will cut through the country via Lake Nicaragua. The canal will be wider, deeper and longer than the Panama Canal.
41-year-old Chinese billionaire Wang Jing is president of HKND, a Chinese infrastructure firm that is leading the project.
Many foreigners have attempted to back similar large canal projects through Central America, but none have gained the traction needed to actually get the canals started, so Jing was understandably excited about the start of construction.
According to the BBC…
“At an opening ceremony, Wang Jing, the president of HKND, the Chinese company building the canal, said this moment would go down in history.”
Although Jing and others are fully behind the canal, some people are not so supportive.
Many are worried the canal, which is said to cost anywhere from 40 to 60 billion dollars to fully develop, will be funded by the Chinese government. Richard Feinberg, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy and independent research organization, describes the canal project as…
“…the Chinese planting their flag right in the heart of the Western Hemisphere.”
Aside from the economic and political influence such a huge project would give to HKND, many are worried about other problems at the “ground-level”. According to Jorge Huete, a research biologist at the University of Central America in Managua…
“This whole thing has been rushed… There was not consultations, there was no debate… There should be someone defending Nicaragua.”
Many, like Huete, are worried about the millions of tons of earth that will be ripped from the soil. Also, one of the main environmental concerns is for Lake Managua, which os Nicaragua’s major source of fresh water.
Lake Managua’s exclusion from ocean water will have to be sacrificed for the project, and numerous indigenous communities that live along the lake or in the way of the future canal will be displaced by the project.
But despite these concerns, the project has continued to move forward. Supporters of the project, like Francisco Telemaco Talavera (the leader of Nicaragua’s National Agrarian University) are overlooking the potential issues and focusing on the benefits the canal will bring. According to Telemaco…
“The canal will bring prosperity to all in this poor nation.”
According to Telemaco, the canal will create 50,000 jobs during the canal’s half-decade development period, and as many as 200,000 more jobs once the canal is fully functional. According to NPR…
“…the government says the mega-project is critical to lifting the nation out of dire poverty.”