Financing still a mystery as Nicaragua unveils details of giant canal
BY TIM JOHNSON
McClatchy Foreign Staff July 9, 2014
Nicaragua is exploring to see if they can build a canal like the Panama canal. (Tim Johnson/MCT) MCCLATCHYDC
Nicaragua forges ahead on canal that would remake world trade
MEXICO CITY — The Chinese tycoon behind a plan to build a mammoth inter-oceanic waterway to compete with the Panama Canal whisked into Nicaragua this week and, in several appearances, including one with President Daniel Ortega, affirmed that “the biggest construction project in the history of mankind” has a green light.
In a lengthy appearance on state television Tuesday night, Ortega sat next to Wang Jing, the Chinese telecommunications magnate who’s been pushing the plan, and pledged that the proposed canal “will permit the country to eradicate poverty and misery.”
The two promised that environmental damage during construction of the canal _ at 173 miles long, more than three times the length of the one in Panama _ will be minimal. Construction will begin late this year and be finished within five years, they said. As many as 5,100 ships a year would use it to pass between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
So the “inevitability train” seems to be arriving at the station known as the Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal, and Presidente Daniel Ortega and the Chinese backers of the canal couldn’t be happier! If you click through to the McClatchy story snipped above, you can read a little more about the mystery that is the funding of this enormous project. As I have blogged about before here, and here and here, the project can be viewed as a potential economic boon to the country or it could be an environmental and property rights disaster waiting to happen.
It can also be viewed, as apparently Ortega does, as a historic inevitability that has been in the works since the 1880s. I think the statement made by the Maersk shipping container line company is key, they will have 20 ships that are so large that even the expanded Panama Canal won’t be able to handle them. Also, that a trip from NY to LA saves over 800 kilometers from a similar trip through Panama is such a dollars and cents proposition that it is a no-brainer for a company like that to essentially back the project (although they were careful to shy away from an outright endorsement).
Of course, I am still worried about the ecological affects. As an eco-boutique small bed and breakfast, most visiting the Farmstay come to Nicaragua for the natural beauty and this project certainly will affect some huge swaths of Nicaragua, essentially cuttting it in half! This project would negatively affect eco-tourism in the country.
Nicaraguan Insiders say that the project is a go, that the Chinese Development bank has the funds and is fully prepared to do this. As the Chinese curse is purported to say: “May you live in interesting times.”