By Peter Tase
Caribbean News Now contributor
MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- On Monday, Nicaraguan radio station La Primerisima announced that the inter-oceanic canal project in Nicaragua is expected to begin very soon. It will be between 230-530 meters wide and 26-30 meters in depth.
Currently, Chinese entrepreneur Wang Jing, owner of HKND Group, whose firm holds the concession to build the Nicaragua Grand Canal, is in the country heading up a delegation that will announce the chosen canal route and other project details in the weeks ahead.
According to La Primerisima, “The canal could be partially ready by 2019 and able to handle the transportation of up to 416 million metric tons, representing 3.9% of the world’s maritime cargo. The route of the Nicaragua inter-oceanic canal will cross through the mouth of the Brito River, south of Rivas, north Tule River and the entry of Punta Gorda River. This route will cross the country from east to the west with a total length of 278 kilometers, including a stretch of 105 kilometers in the Cocibolca Lake.”
According to HKND Group executives, the canal will allow the passage of container vessels of up to 400,000 tons and oil tankers up to 320,000 tons, with more than 5,100 cargo ships transiting every year and 30 hours of transit per ship.
In a press release, the Chinese entrepreneurs and Nicaraguan government officials, announced that the surrounding communities of the Great Lake of Nicaragua or Lago Cocibolca will not be affected by this gigantic structure, and they will continue to have abundant water resources for their crops and agricultural farms.
After the construction of the canal, there will also be constructed an artificial lake that might be called “Lake Atlanta”, similar to Panama’s Gatun Lake, with an area of 400 square kilometers.
The water collected in this lake will not only supply and meet the demands of the local population and farmers but it will also serve as a centre for tourism and ecology and an aquaculture tourism centre.
Another important aspect of this gigantic project is the potential problem caused by the large amounts of soil that will be excavated and removed; according to environmentalists the removable soil will be deposited in areas considered to experience a lower environmental impact.
The local companies involved in this mega project are concerned that volcanic eruptions and earthquakes could cause unexpected consequences to their project; however, HKND Group has consulted with China’s Institute of Seismology and the latter has assured that volcanoes would have no negative impact during the normal operations of the canal.
According to Arturo McFields, the press attaché of the Embassy of Nicaragua, in Washington, DC, “The initial works will generate over 50,000 jobs and the whole project will create 250,000 employment opportunities.”
Such a large inter-oceanic project will have six sub-projects in Nicaragua. It will have two ports and a free trade zone in Brito, also a resort and an airport north of Rivas, as well as a number of new roads in order to compensate for the road network that will be cut by the canal and sub projects.
At the same time, to ensure the supply of materials and constant flow of energy, a power plant, and steel and cement factories will be built and the feasibility of reducing their negative consequences in the environment is currently being discussed. After considering the environmental and infrastructure factors, the authorities have recommended one of the routes, beginning in Punta Gorda in the Autonomous Region of the Southern Caribbean and ending in Brito.
According to Morten Nygart, the CEO of Global 2020, there have been more than 4,000 people from various consulting firms worldwide, including American McKinsey that have spent nearly a year working on a feasibility study to map sustainability factors and both economic and environmental impact of this mega project.
Rosario Murillo, the communications coordinator of the Citizenship Council, said: “This is a historic day for Nicaragua, a day of great importance in the evolution path, transformation and development growth, improve the material, social and cultural life of our country.”
Murillo said the feasibility studies, which contain the environmental and social technical implications on the route chosen for the Grand Inter-oceanic Canal were made possible by companies contracted by HKND Group.
The government of President Daniel Ortega is committed to make the country a development beacon in Latin America and beyond, the admirable economic growth and increase in the production of agricultural commodities reaching 17 percent of its total GDP, while the industry sector amounts to 25.8 percent of GDP.
The construction of the inter-oceanic canal will bring new hope for Nicaraguans, improve the regional economy, modernize Managua’s logistical facilities as well as bring Nicaragua and the whole Central America region into the apex of the industrialized-advanced nations willing to strengthen their business-commercial ties with this part of the world.