Conservation, Environmental Hazards

Nicaragua to Move Forward with Canal Project

Lake Nicaragua could be detrimentally affected by the canal project
Lake Nicaragua is the main water source for the country and could face problems if the canal project moves forward.
Image: Shutterstock

Officials in Nicaragua are moving forward with plans to create a large canal in order to form a trans-oceanic waterway. The Nicaraguan government wants the dig to start as soon as December and is certain that the presence of the canal will have a positive effect. However, not everyone is so excited about the potential canal. Local communities and international observers are worried about the economic benefits and potentially devastating environmental consequences that could add another misfortune for this country.

Nicaragua actually lost the fight with Panama for a canal over a century ago when the United States was looking for a place to build. However, this defeat was rectified in June 2013, when the Nicaraguan legislature gave final approval for the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Group to build the canal across the country.

If executed, the canal will be 173 miles long and will end up costing more than $50 billion to make, a small price to pay for lifting the nation out of poverty with the construction of this mega-project, according to Nicaraguan officials. “The canal will bring prosperity to all in this poor nation,” says Francisco Telemaco Talavera, the leader of Nicaragua, who explains that it will help by creating 50,000 jobs during the five-year construction period and 200,000 more once the canal is up and running.

Nicaragua is now the second poorest nation in the hemisphere after Haiti, but with the production of the canal it is estimated that the economic growth rate could be as high as 14 percent a year. However, environmentalists are concerned that the project will obliterate more than one million acres of Nicaraguan rainforests and wetlands, displace countless indigenous people, and likely jeopardize Lake Nicaragua, the nation’s largest source of fresh water. These are valid concerns for locals and environmental groups alike in Nicaragua.

This situation is a complicated one to say the least. On the one hand, the creation of a major canal could greatly improve Nicaragua’s struggling economy. On the other, a canal of this magnitude could adversely affect Nicaragua’s environment.

How do you weigh in?

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