Nicaragua Pushes Plan for Panama Canal Rival

Nicaragua Pushes Plan for Panama Canal Rival

Commercial News » Latin America Commercial News Edition | By Francys Vallecillo | June 11, 2013 11:43 AM ET

A Nicaraguan congressional committee has approved a plan to build a canal across the Central American country, fast-tracking the project amid objections over the lack of details for the project. 

The Chinese consortium HK Nicaragua Development Investment Co. is working with the Nicaraguan government on the $40 billion project that would rival Panama's canal. 

For centuries Nicaragua has discussed building a canal, pre-dating work on the Panama Canal, which was completed in 1914. But this proposal is generating more questions than answers. Opponents say the proposal is being rushed, pointing to many missing elements in the plan, including details on funding for the project and the actual route connecting the Pacific to the Caribbean. 

Focusing on the proposition that the canal would capture 4.5 percent of world maritime freight traffic and double the country's per-capita gross domestic product, President Daniel Ortega has shown enthusiasm for the project, ABC News reports. 

The President's Sandinista Front controls the national legislature, which is expected to vote on the project on Thursday. 

The canal would take 11 years to complete and would require digging about 130 miles of waterway, according to the proposal. The Panama Canal is 48 miles long.

Opponents question the necessity of the canal and the lack of study of the environment impact it could have on the country.

"Since there is no defined path, we can't measure the degree of seriousness of this project," opposition lawmaker Javier Vallejos told AP. "This is like putting the cart before the horse."

The Superior Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep) claims the canal proposal has inconsistencies in the form of payment to landowners who will be expropriated for the project, according to La Prensa. The council also believes other investment projects will be stopped until the exact path of construction is determined. 

Panama's seven-year $5.2 billion canal expansion project is scheduled to finish this year, leading many to wonder whether Central America needs two canals. 

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