Nicaragua Canal, unrealistic mega-project

(VOVworld) – The Nicaraguan Canal, which was expected to become Nicaragua’s largest infrastructure project, is one of the Nicaraguan government’s efforts to lift Nicaragua out of poverty. But since the groundbreaking ceremony in December 2014, nothing else has happened.

Nicaragua Canal, unrealistic mega-project - ảnh 1

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Wang Jing hold the signed documents of the framework agreement for the construction of the Interoceanic Grand Canal. Managua Nicaragua on June 14, 2013. AFP/INTI OCON

The project to build a 278-km canal connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean at a cost of more than 50 billion USD is considered a counterpoise to the Panama Canal. With a depth of 28 meters and twice the width of the Panama Canal, the Nicaragua Canal will be able to accommodate the world’s biggest ships. But the project is at a standstill. At the launch of the project 4 years ago, President Daniel Ortega said the project would strengthen the national economy, generate thousands of jobs, and double Nicaragua’s GDP.

In 2013, Nicaragua granted construction licenses and 50-year operation rights to Chinese billionaire Wang Jing, President and CEO of the Beijing Xinwei Group. Mr. Wang set up the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Company, based in Hong Kong, China. But, following the collapse of the Chinese stock market in 2015, Mr. Wang’s assets shrank 84%, from 10.2 billion USD to 1.1 billion USD. The project has been strongly opposed and criticized by environmentalists, economists, and others. Environmentalists are concerned that a canal through southern Nicaragua will threaten the fragile ecology of the region, which includes Lake Nicaragua, the region’s largest fresh water reservoir. Economists are skeptical about the project’s benefits. Farmers fear property seizures if the canal is constructed. A number of public protests have taken place. A planned expansion of the Panama Canal means that it will be able to accommodate bigger ships. So, if the Nicaragua Canal is constructed, there will be competition forcing fees downward.

On International Earth Day, April 22, several protests took place in Nicaragua to demand that Nicaragua’s Canal Law be rescinded. Passed by the Nicaraguan Parliament in 2013, the Canal Law allows the construction of the canal, roads, ports, warehouses, a power plant,and an airport.