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20 years

Costa Rica demands environmental studies of planned Nicaragua canal

nicaragua-map (1)

July 15th, 2014 ( The Government of Costa Rica is demanding assurances that the planned $40 billion “mega canal” in Nicaragua will not affect the flow or navigability of the San Juan and Colorado rivers.


Foreign Minister, Manuel Gonzalez sent a communiqué yesterday to his counterpart in Nicaragua, in which Costa Rica calls for environmental impact studies of the plan.


The planned canal, which would be three times longer than the Panama Canal, would be able to accommodate ships up to 400,000 tons and would expect annual traffic of 5,100 vessels that would make the 30-hour journey through the canal, according to information provided by Nicaraguan authorities.


“Costa Rica expects Nicaragua to send cross-border environmental impact studies and any other relevant technical studies, before any work begins, stating that [the canal] will not affect Costa Rica,” Gonzalez said in a note to his Nicaraguan counterpart.


“In particular, [the studies] must prove that the volume of water from the Colorado River will not be affected as the result of possible lower water levels in the Rio San Juan,” the note adds.


Costa Rica also expressed its concern over accidents such as spills from oil tankers traversing the canal.


Concerns have even been raised in Nicaragua, where environmentalists and even some Nicaraguan politicians have questioned the project’s potential impact on the environment and the lack of experience of its Chinese developer with large infrastructure projects.  Environmentalists are especially concerned because the canal will affect Lake Nicaragua.  With an area of 8,264 square kilometers, the lake is the largest in Central America and an important source of fresh water.


The developers of the canal said last year that “Nicaragua will become by far the richest country in Central America — and that will affect the entire region,” as a result of the canal.


Nicaragua approved the route for the canal earlier this month.

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  • disgusted

    Oh yeah, And didn’t then Ex Pres. Lady Laura demand Nicaragua “army” leave Costa Ricas property in near San Juan river. How did that work out for CR . Even the Hague courts couldn’t fix that.

  • Ben

    Let them build there canal and Costa Rican goverment should worry about Costa Rican issues like fixing there health care system and fixing there roads and getting there pension system under control. Costa Rican goverment needs an enemy to avoid fixing there internal problems. That how the PLN goverment ran CR for 20 years and did nothing for the Costa Rican people.

  • Ken Morris

    I’m of two minds about this demand.

    First, I wonder who the hell Costa Rica thinks it is to demand anything from a foreign country about its internal economic develoment plans. Did Nicaragua demand that Costa Rica study the impact of its tourism industry, which relies upon Nica maids, construction workers, security guards, and prostitutes, before developing it? Of course not! Tico arrogance toward Nicaragua gets old real fast.

    (I write this the day after reading the post in the Tico Times in which a Tico badmouthed Oscar Duarte, and the very day I watched as a Nica with permanent legal residency called about an apartment only to be told “no Nicas” over the phone. The prejudice and discrimination against Nicas is apparant daily at every level of CR society.)

    But second, it’s probably good that CR lent its voice to the chorus of those asking for environmental impact studies and the like with respect to the canal. There is a substantial risk that the canal project blunders badly, and lots of people are rightly concerned about this. In this sense, as part of the international community as well as a neighbor, it’s appropriate for CR to go on record now asking that the canal be constructed responsibility.

    The issue is probably how demanding the demand was. It’s fine for CR to express its concerns and to urge its neighbor to proceed carefully, but not fine if CR was huffy and bratty about it. From the way I read this article and after witnessing the ways CR has dealt with Nicaragua in the past, I suspect that CR was huffy and bratty–and out of line.

    • Frank Castle

      Once again, I’m waiting to see if this canal really gets built. This Chinese developer has no experience in this area and they are supposed to start breaking ground later this year. Once December is here, we can talk about this again.

      • Ken Morris

        I can’t disagree. My feeling all along has been that, except for the wound to national pride, a failed canal project may be almost as good as a successful one, at least assuming a few billion gets pumped into the economy before the project is abandoned.

        I think they will break ground and get the first few billion. Ortega is good at this shit, and the Chinese guy has billions to burn. Who knows, they may even end up with a successful canal, but it might ironically be best if they only manage to dig a few trenches and pump some money into the economy. Supreme irony would be if they manage to fuck up CR’s river in the process yet don’t ever get the canal.

        It’s a monster story to watch. Let’s talk in December . . .

        • Frank Castle


          I knew you were a reasonable and thoughtful man. Just remember the Frenchman de Lesseps’s, who built the Suez Canal but even he failed on building the Panama Canal. He was an experienced canal builder too so we shall see.

          I will remember to broach this subject in December with you.

          • Ken Morris

            Thanks for the “reasonable and thoughtful,” and same to you.

            Unfortunately, “remembering my history” is not up there with “reasonable and thoughtful,” plus I may get my Frenchmen confused, but I’m wondering if this was the guy who was undercut in his attempt to construct the canal in Nicaragua instead of Panama by the political PR campaign financed by investors in the Panama site against a canal in Nicaragua? Whether or not I have the details recalled correctly, I’m pretty sure that Nicaragua was always the superior site for a canal from an engineering standpoint, but was undercut by politics and money. My guess is that politics and money always trump engineering, which is why a future canal (or half a canal) in Nicaragua now looks likely to me.

            Yep, we’ll talk in December.

  • NorthendFool

    It may not be profitable considering the Panama Canal, the lack of shipping now, the ice caps melting opening up northern routes. Numbers will have to be right for a profit and it appears the numbers are questionable at present.

  • expatin paradise

    The entire world should be demanding an environmental impact study before ground is broken – and it should be made by an independent party, not the construction company or the Nicaraguan government. A feasibility study by an independent body of engineers would also be a good idea. Such studies may reveal causes for concern that could be remedied by modifications in construction methods or materials.

    The parties involved have no experience with such projects, and the potential environmental impact is immense, so there is plenty of cause for concern. The project doesn’t have to reach completion for major damage to occur. Contamination of Lake Nicaragua and the rivers that feed it are very real concerns. Navigation of the rivers and impact on wildlife are very real concerns to Costa Rica.

    If this project is feasible from an engineering standpoint and can be completed without significant environmental damage, it will be an immense benefit to Nicaragua. There is no good reason for Nicaragua or the construction company to withhold information unless that information would show a reason the project should not get a green light.

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