After a year of making preparations, Nicaragua has finally announced that it will soon begin construction of a major canal to link the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific. Billed as the world’s biggest engineering project, the Nicaragua Canal is predicted to lift millions of people out of poverty while offering international navigators an alternative to the Panama Canal.
The US$50 billion project is however facing a huge opposition because it runs through Lake Nicaragua, a major source for fresh water in Central America. The project, slated to begin on December 22, will include two ports, an airport, a resort and an economic zone for electricity and other companies. A 600-meter bridge designed to cross the canal is already under construction.
Digging a waterway through Nicaragua is a century-old idea. But the world took it seriously only when Wang Jing, a 40-year-old Chinese billionaire, agreed to finance the project. Today, several environmental groups are criticizing him, saying that he lacks in experience in developing and financing such a mammoth project.
People living around Lake Nicaragua have been staging protest marches, but the country’s president Daniel Ortega has vowed that he will press ahead with the plan, saying the canal will alleviate poverty for almost half of the country’s poor.
The Nicaraguan waterway will be four times longer than the Panamanian Canal and will yield more revenue than its Panamanian counterpart. Hundreds of Chinese laborers are expected to take part in the construction that will run from the Rio Punta Gorda on the Caribbean Coast to Brito on the Pacific.
According to local reports, as many as 30,000 residents around Nicaragua Lake will have to be relocated. Wang Jing has promised to complete the project within a five-year period.