A Chinese consortium plans to start construction on a canal through Nicaragua by the end of this year, with the completion date of 2019.
Jeremy Hance of Mongabay.com has written an excellent article on how the canal threatens the Indigenous peoples and protected areas that stand in its way, and the ripple effects that it would have on ecosystems throughout Nicaragua.
The Gran Canal: will Nicaragua’s big bet create prosperity or environmental ruin?
By Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com. August 27, 2014
A hundred years ago, the Panama Canal reshaped global geography, allowing ships for the first time to bypass the long and perilous journey around Cape Horn by simply cutting through a continent. Now a new project, spearheaded by a media-shy Chinese millionaire, wants to compete with the infamous canal, building a 278-kilometer (173-mile) canal through Nicaragua. While the Nicaraguan government argues the massive project will change the country’s dire economic outlook overnight—Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti—critics contend it will cause undue environmental damage, upend numerous communities, and do little to help the people of Nicaragua.
Not only might the Gran Canal not monetarily benefit the Nicaraguan people in the near-term, but it might worsen living conditions, already destabilized by environmental issues and longstanding conflict.
In fact, according to Huete-Perez, the canal will force the relocation of at least nine indigenous and Afro-Nicarguan communities in Nicaragua’s South Atlantic Autonomous Region. Although the autonomous regions were set-up to provide local communities with greater access and management of their natural resources, this special status doesn’t impact the approval of the Gran Canal.