Nicaragua's government and Hong Kong-based HKND Group yesterday unveiled the route of a proposed $40 billion inter-ocean canal to compete with the Panama Canal that Sandinista officials hope will lift the Central American country out of poverty. While the canal has the support of President Daniel Ortega and most Nicaraguans, many legal experts charge that the deal violates the country's national sovereignty. Environmental experts warn that construction could cause profound ecological damage by damming rivers, splitting ecosystems, and moving untold tons of earth. Others fear the project is not economically feasible.
Having considered six possible routes, HKND announced yesterday that the canal will stretch 173 miles, 65 miles of which are across Lake Nicaragua. The route begins on the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of river Brito, heads south through the city of Rivas, and crosses Lake Nicaragua. From Lake Nicaragua, it goes by the Tule and Punta Gordas rivers until it reaches the southern Caribbean by Bluefields Bay. "This project is going to be the biggest built in the history of humanity. It will be an enormous help to the Nicaraguan people and for the world in general, because world trade will require it, we are sure of this," says HKND's owner. Construction is to begin in December and take five years. (Read more Nicaragua stories.)