President Manuel Ortega said on Saturday that the construction of a massive inter-oceanic canal in Nicaragua that could significantly alter global trade would start at the end of 2014.
“The Nicaraguan government and HKND Group are pleased to confirm that canal construction work will begin as planned in December 2014,” Ortega announced alongside Chinese tycoon Wang Jing, whose group has secured the rights to dig and operate the waterway.
Ortega gave the Chinese group a concession to manage the future shipping channel for 50 years, with the possibility to renew the contract for another 50.
The massive 30-billion-euro project would connect the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and rival the century-old Panama canal.
The Panama canal is currently building a new lane of traffic to double its capacity, but the expansion is running behind schedule.
Nicaraguan authorities have said that besides the future waterway, their project would include an oil pipeline, an overland route, two deepwater ports, two airports and duty-free zones.
Nicaraguan legislators in June approved granting Wang Jing the canal concession, and in December the Supreme Court in Managua said the project did not violate the constitution.
Opponents say the project is not financially feasible and have raised concerns about displacing indigenous groups and damage to the environment.
Saturday’s announcement appeared to contradict recent government statements that construction would be delayed until 2015.
One week ago, Manuel Coronel Kautz, president of the canal authority, told a national newspaper that digging would not start on time because the canal’s path remained undefined.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)
Date created : 2014-01-12