Nicaragua is looking to attract Indian businesses to participate in its planned canal project to link the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. A Chinese company, HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Ltd (HKND), won the contract to build the strategically important 209-kilometer link.
The canal has the support of President Daniel Ortega and theruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) party, and would rival the Panama Canal, which is being expanded.
On his visit to India in August, Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samuel Santos Lopez detailed the plans for the canal to India’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Salman Khurshid, and industry representatives, Khurshid’s spokesman, Syed Akbaruddinsaid.
"They want the Indian business community to participate and he is meeting Indian businessmen in that context," local media quoted Akbaruddin as saying.
Santos Lopez said a detailed report into the $40 billion USD project would be available by next year. It is anticipated that once completed, the canal would have capacity to allow even super large tankers.
India and China are not the only countries whose interest Nicaragua has sought for the canal. Deputy Assistant Secretary Walter Bastian of the US Department of Commerce said the project was “fascinating” and could be the target of joint investment for the United States’ public and private sectors. On a visit to Nicaragua at the end of July, Bastian said he would look into the level of interest from potential investors, Fox News Latino reported.
The development has riled environmentalists, who say the project would threaten the water quality of Lake Cocibolca. The lake, which is also known as Lake Nicaragua, is the largest source of freshwater in Central America.
Two local NGOs, the Nicaraguan Alliance on Climate Change (ANACC) and the umbrella group National Risk Management Body (MNGR), have warned that legislation to allow the canal contradicts laws to protect Lake Cocibolca and its tributaries.
Critics have suggested that the project, which is expected to take at least 11 years to finish, will never be completed. Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos dismissed it as no more than a “fairy tale.”
"We don't want it to become an international joke, and we don't want it to turn into an example of Chinese investment failures," said Wang Jing, chairman and owner of Hong Kong-based HKND Group. The company has taken on Belgium’s SEB and Australia’s MEC Mining to provide advice.
At present, HKND is holding field inspections as the route of the canal is being decided.
This story is brought to readers free in association with Singapore International Water Week.