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Nicaragua Promotes Inter-Ocean Canal Plan to UN

NEW YORK, NY, United States

Nicaragua introduced its plan for a $40 billion USD canal to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to the United Nations last week.

Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samuel Santos told the UN that the proposal was an example of the Central American country’s development.

The contract to build the ambitious project has been won by Chinese company HK Nicaragua Canal Development Group (HKND).

Santos told the 68th UN General Assembly: “Much has been said these days about the Great Canal of Nicaragua. With this project, our government proposes to attend to the unprecedented transformation in world maritime trade, which will continue to grow, between Asia and the Americas, and complement the expansion of the Panama Canal.”

Standing in for President Daniel Ortega on September 30,the minister explained that the project would be for “peace and the development of all people,” and “open to international investment with certainty and transparency.”

Environmentalists have claimed canal presents a danger to the Lake Nicaragua (also known as Lake Cocibolca) -- the largest in Central America. They claim legislation to allow the project breaks the rules protecting the lake, which provides an essential role in the supply of water to the population.

Víctor Campos, assistant director of the Humboldt Center, a Nicaraguan organization that promotes territorial development and environmental management, told Envío Magazine: “Cocibolca’s water is a vital resource for everyone who lives around the lake, and as been said earlier, the majority of Nicaragua’s population lives in this particular watershed, and it in turn generates and ensures a very important part of our country’s water.”

In June, the country’s National Assembly passed the Special Law to allow HKDN to build and manage the inter-oceanic canal for 50 years. Under the broad legislation, HKDN has been bestowed “the access and navigation rights in rivers, lakes, oceans and other bodies of water within Nicaragua and in its waters, and the right to extend, expand, dredge, divert or reduce said bodies of water.”

Campos fears the canal is incompatible with the lake’s use as a source of drinking water. However, under the extensive rights and protections passed over to the Chinese company, Nicaragua has given up its right to sue for any damages caused during any point of the project.

The development is designed to rival the Panama Canal, which carries 5 percent of world trade.

The owner of HKND, billionaire Wang Jing, plans to list one of his companies, Beijing Xinwei Telecom Technology Co., on the Shanghai stock market through a reverse takeover of Beijing Xinwei.

The Wang’s business empire includes interests in the agriculture, investment and media industries, according to Bloomberg. 

This story is brought to readers free in association with Singapore International Water Week.