The Proposed Second Central American Canal in Nicaragua: Environmental and Social Consequences.

Nathaniel Wheelwright (Biology) & Allen Wells (History)


Once thought to be a potential site for what would become the Panama Canal, the Nicaraguan government has just awarded a fifty-year concession to a Hong Kong billionaire to finance, develop and manage the “Nicaragua Grand Canal.” The project’s cost of development is estimated at 50 billion dollars. Environmentalists are concerned about the impact on the country’s largest fresh water reservoir, Lake Nicaragua. Geologists raise questions about the construction of a canal in a zone that is prone to considerable seismic activity. Estimates of the numbers of Nicaraguans to be displaced by this project range from 30,000 to 100,000. The government counters that the project will provide for 250,000 jobs and that the growth in global trade, already causing congestion and delays at the Panama Canal, justifies a second East-West canal across the isthmus. At the turn of the last century, the building of the Panama Canal cost more than 35,000 lives and permanently altered the ecological balance of the isthmus. What will the environmental, economic and social impacts be of this second attempt at the radical re-engineering of a small Central American nation?