Earlier this week construction began on a canal that will link Venado on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast to Puerto Brito on the country's Pacific side. The secretive project has an estimated price tag of $50 billion, which is four times the size of Nicaragua's economy, and the government claims it would create at least 50,000 jobs for construction and 200,000 more upon completion. A rival to the Panama Canal, this channel hopes to fuel growth within the agricultural, industrial, and manufacturing industries by facilitating heavy freight transportation.
However, the venture has created much controversy with farmers and the native people living along the channel. They are naturally fearful that the 175-mile route will disrupt life: personally, economically, and environmentally. With a majority of the country earning less than $2 per day, there is a distinct possibility that poverty levels will rise as the canal divides private property. Coupled with the concern of displacement and relocation, many Nicaraguans are also thinking of the country’s rich biodiversity where 22 endangered species live. One of the biggest concerns to civil engineers and environmentalists is that the undertaking will be abandoned and Lake Nicaragua, the largest freshwater reservoir in Latin America, will be severely damaged.
Furthermore, the Central American country has kept the waterway’s technical, ecological, and financial reports secret and only recently granted Chinese-tycoon Wang Jing's company HKND permission to proceed with the project. The company will not only design and build the canal, but also owns the contract to manage it for the next 100 years. Many believe that traditional parliamentary procedures, official reports, and public forums have been deliberately forsaken, thus setting a frightening precedent for the small nation.
A canal through Nicaragua has long been deliberated by both the government and the private sector, but until recently has never been fiscally viable. How do you see the construction and its ultimate impact towards globalization progressing?