Millennium Post

Chinese firm begins construction to take on Panama Canal

Chinese firm begins construction to take on Panama Canal
A Chinese firm has begun construction of the ambitious USD 50 billion Nicaragua Canal project to link the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, rivaling the Panama canal, amid concerns over displacement of people as well as adverse effects on the environment.

The 278-km being built in south Nicaragua by the Hong Kong-based Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co, (HKND Group), will be the largest infrastructure mega project in Latin America and will rival the Panama Canal when completed in 2019.

The new canal will be able to accommodate ships with a displacement of 400,000 tons, while the Panama Canal can only accommodate ships with a displacement of 90,000 tons, Wang Jing, chairman and CEO of HKND Group, told state run Global Times.

“The common problem faced by both the Panama and Suez canals, two of the world’s biggest, is that their width limits their cargo volume. Even after the Panama Canal expansion in 2016, it can only accommodate ships of up to 150,000 tons,” Wang said.

The project however is not without controversy. Sporadic protests broke out last year over the concerns of displacement of people as well as the adverse environmental effect it could cause to ecosystem.Allaying the fears of public over displacement, Wang said all relocations will only be made with the consent of the people affected.The staff of HKND Group told the daily that they have not encountered much opposition and claimed that most of the residents supported the project as a chance to improve their lives.

The route of the canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans will pass through Nicaragua Lake, a more than 8,000-square km body of freshwater that is Central America’s biggest lake and the 19th largest in the world.

Wang said that an extra USD 8 billion was poured into minimising its environmental impact, and the company will finish an environmental impact assessment report by the first quarter of 2015. He downplayed media reports that the China-backed canal will ruffle feathers in the US, as it is being built in its traditional sphere of influence and will compete with the US-backed Panama Canal.
Wang admitted there could be competition among the two canals, but said he believes they can be complementary to each, as they will serve different markets.

The Panama Canal is still the shorter route, at 77 km but lies further south of the new canal. It opened in 1914, and was taken into full Panamanian control in 1999. 
Agencies

Agencies

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