Costa Rica Seeks Answers on Nicaragua Canal

San Juan River
Image: San Juan River

Published Jun 10, 2015 11:13 AM by The Maritime Executive

Costa Rica is looking for answers about the environmental impact of Nicaragua’s Grand Canal project, which is intended to rival the Panama Canal.

The $50 billion canal construction plan entails dredging Lake Nicaragua to 30m (98.5 feet) almost twice its current depth. This could cause sedimentation in the San Juan River, whose southern bank is Costa Rican territory. However, the Costa Rican government claims it has been left in the dark about environmental implications for its country.

"This is why we asked Nicaragua to tell us how they were planning to prevent the sedimentation of the San Juan River. We have not received that information," President Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera said.

"The only thing we want is information on possible environmental impacts on Costa Rica, and other than that we wish them well," Solis told a news conference in Geneva.

Nicaragua announced the start of work on the project in December, saying the proposed 172-mile (278-km) canal, due to be operational by around 2020, would raise annual economic growth to more than 10 percent. It would also give China a major foothold in Central America, a region that historically has been dominate by the United States.

Construction of the new waterway will be run by Hong Kong-based HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co Ltd (HKND Group), which is controlled by Wang Jing, a Chinese telecom mogul.

"We understand that this is not a canal that is being supported by the government of Beijing," Solis said.

In March scientist expressed concerns over the potential ecological impact the canal would have on Lake Nicaragua, the ninth largest tropical freshwater lake of the Americas.