Nicaragua Canal Causes Controversy
By admin April 8, 2015


A consortium of environmental scientists has expressed strong concern regarding the construction of a canal across Nicaragua expected to connect the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. The scientists are concerned with the environmental consequences of the canal, including toxic dumping in Lake Nicaragua, water shortages, flooding, and infiltration of saltwater into freshwater ecosystems.

Proposals to build a canal through Nicaragua are over a hundred years old – in the late nineteenth century, Nicaragua was one of the possible sites considered for what eventually became the Panama Canal. The current project was finally authorized in June 2013, when the government of Nicaragua granted a 50-year concession to the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company (HKND Group) to build and manage the canal. The canal is expected to be as long as 286 kilometers, cost $40 billion dollars, and come with the additional construction of two deep-water ports, two free-trade zones, an oil pipeline, a railroad, and an international airport. The time frame for the construction of the canal was tentatively set at five years. Once the waterway is operational, the concession may be extended for another 50 years.

Proponents of the project argue that the canal project will be a boon to the Nicaraguan economy; President Ortega’s private secretary for national policy, Paul Oquist, told reporters from The Wall Street Journal that the government saw the project “taking the country out of poverty and underdevelopment.” According to a spokesman for the canal authority, the canal’s construction alone will create 50,000 jobs, half of which will go to Nicaraguan workers; operation of the canal once constructed will require 200,000 workers, creating even more jobs – an especially appealing prospect in a country where underemployment currently stands at 45.6%.

However, the project has also caused controversy. Critics of the Ortega government like opposition politician Eliseo Nunez denounce the project as a chimera, accusing President Ortega of “selling hope,” while a transportation expert from Hofstra University says he “can’t see how the project could be financially or ecologically justified;” still other critics believe the 5 year deadline is impossible to meet and question where the money for the project will be raised (especially since the Chinese government is not officially backing it). Environmental lawyer Monica Lopez Baltodano has also told Al Jazeera reporters that the canal project violates Nicaragua’s constitution, which requires that any concession of natural resources be approved by all the municipalities affected and all representatives on indigenous lands, and that 120,000 people will be uprooted by the project without their consent. She and other canal opponents have filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, while local groups have protested, sometimes violently (with over 50 injured in protests last December in the capital of Managua).

With the project approved by the government, and protests and legal actions so far having had no effect, the canal’s opponents are unlikely to succeed in stopping the construction. However, it is still not clear whether the Nicaraguan government and HKND Group will be able to see it through to the end.

For more information:

Thanks for sharing !

Comments are disabled.