China’s Might Driving Plan for Nicaragua Canal

In December 2014, ground broke for the Nicaragua canal project, which is being built by Chinese billionaire Wang Jing and his Hong Kong-based Hong Kong Canal Development Investment Co. (HKND Group). Since the project was first announced, questions about Wang Jing’s political connections and the environmental and social impact of the construction have persisted. In a five-part multimedia series for McClatchy, Tim Johnson examines the political, social, economic, and environmental ramifications of the planned canal project, which he calls, “without doubt the largest earth-moving project of the modern era”; 50,000 workers will be needed to dig a 90-foot-deep ditch across the entire country of Nicaragua. From Johnson’s first report:

Already, preliminary work has begun, at a cost to date of hundreds of millions of dollars. Land has been surveyed, routes identified, negotiations begun with landholders. Yet secrecy still cloaks the project, whose ramifications are vast. Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans would be displaced and hundreds of square miles of land would be given over to the Chinese company that holds the concession to build the canal.

Other ramifications can only be guessed at: The impact the canal would have on Nicaragua’s environment has yet to be made public. Also uncalculated: the ramifications on world trade that would come from the inter-ocean passage of ships so large that most U.S. ports can’t handle them.

Another looming unknown: how the global balance might change with a Chinese-built and -financed canal dug across an isthmus that has been a nearly exclusive American zone for 200 years. [Source]

In part two of the series, Johnson looks at protests against the canal by various groups in Nicaragua:

One day in this ranch town in eastern Nicaragua, Medardo Mairena Sequeira climbed into the bed of a silver pickup truck. He grabbed a microphone hooked up to a small amplifier and spoke to a few dozen people, some on horseback and others on foot. Most wore baseball caps or broad-brimmed cowboy hats. Mairena railed against the 50-year concession granted to HKND Group, the company controlled by a Chinese telecom billionaire that is to build the canal.

Mairena declared that the concession violated Nicaraguan law, and that the Chinese company would not look out for the interests of Nicaraguans.

“They’ve come here because they want to make money. They are not here to help us Nicaraguans,” Mairena said.

“Our sovereignty is being handed away.” [Source]

Part three looks at the perils faced by Nicaragua’s Rama Indians from the canal and accompanying migrants. Part four examines how many details about the canal project remain hidden from public view. In accompanying videos, McClatchy visits three towns along the canal’s proposed path:

Read more about the Nicaragua canal project, via CDT.