Nicaragua’s Grand Canal: The Proposed Route
This is Route 4 as proposed by the HKND group, the Chinese consortium headed by Wang Jing that is behind the grand canal venture. According to them this route takes into account the least amount of environmental and socio-cultural damage.
Here is my take on it. The first thing that was said about the canal route decision-making process was that a major factor was the affect of distance on the budget. With that “shorter = cheaper” thought in my head, I listened to the other reasons why the other five routes were crossed off the list. Link to proposed routes map
Environmental concerns was a big one. The two northern routes would affect turtle nesting grounds and reefs. The middle route would affect the Ramsar protected wetlands around Bluefields. Cultural concerns were mentioned as well. Route 3 would have
destroyed negatively affected Rama Cay, the capital of the indigenous Rama people.
The two southern propositions utilized the Rio San Juan and again, environmental concerns were sited. The Rio San Juan has been promoted as a tourist destination for the last few years and as a point of solidifying national pride against those evil Costa Ricans who have constructed a two-lane road that runs along its bank in a few places. Of course I am speaking tongue-in-cheek when I call them evil…that is basically how they have been portrayed by the Nicaraguan media for the environmental damage caused by the construction. Politically speaking, it would have been hard enough to face the music regarding the environmental damage the biggest engineering project in human history would have caused. Then having to cooperate with those pesky Ticos? Routes 5 and 6 were out of the question before serious considerations even began.
Route 4 passes from the mouth of the Brito river (a glorified creek…all the real rivers empty into the Caribbean), crossing the shin of the country and into the largest lake in Central America, passes south of Ometepe and Maderas Reserve and just north of the Solentiname Islands Park and Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge.
On the opposite side of the lake it is set to begin again overland at another creek called the Tule river. Incidentally, the Tule river is the southern border of the San Miguelito wetlands, an unprotected but recognized area. The route is to follow the river and cut through large hills until it meets the Punta Gorda River, which it will loosely follow until it exits at the mouth and into the Caribbean sea. This exit area is a major concern for opponents and cautious supporters of the canal since the river mouth is the meeting point of three major reserves, the Cerro Silva, Punta Gorda and Indio-Maiz. It slices in half the territory of the Rama-Kriol, an indigenous group made of Rama indians and afro-descendants that have populated the area for centuries. They are native people that depend on the natural resources of the area for subsistence survival. The area is also a sea turtle nesting ground.