Profits, People, and the #PRC: the #Nicaragua Canal

posted Aug 4, 2013, 8:46 AM by Peter Joseph Moons
Profits, People, and the PRC: the Nicaragua Canal

August 4, 2013

Comments by Peter Joseph Moons

     The effects on Nicaraguan society, people and communities in the path of the canal will be great, no matter what the Nicaraguan Congress, Chinese Corporations, or foreign investors claim. The disruption to life in the future canal zone will be the cost for this endeavor, and will, unfortunately, be borne by those least likely to gain economically from the project. Every point at which the project requires the development of new infrastructure will cause a disturbance of some type. Most curious, according to media reports, is that the Government of Nicaragua approved the canal project prior to either a complete environmental study or a referendum of its citizens; the latter is what the Government of Panama did when deciding to pursue its 'third locks,' which will accommodate 'post-Panamax' size ships.

     The Government of Nicaragua can decide how to exploit its own territory for economic gain, as the government controls its sovereign territory. The pursuit of future profits from the $40B investment may likely negate any naysaying by the soon-to-be disrupted lands' inhabitants, certainly at least in the short-term. Indeed, the profits for the government could be substantial: contracts to foreign design, construction, management, and logistics firms (and their sub-contractors locally) are serious sums. The People's Republic of China (PRC) is known for offering grand concessions and huge engineering projects to countries in exchange for economic in-roads. With a Chinese firm appearing as the major player in this canal, the Nicaraguans should expect no difference.

     Considering that Nicaragua's planned canal may include two ports, one on either side of the isthmus, TEU container farms, two railheads, a railroad, and the 'wet' part of the route, there will be substantial areas affected. These include the geographic terrain, which now houses people, their farmland, grazing areas, and land left in its natural state – and some of the latter could also be contiguous with designated parkland or nature preserves. If work is started and later abandoned, the effects on the terrain will be long-lasting – and will appear more as devastation. Until recently, the cuts made in the earth alongside the present Panama Canal by the the French in the late 19th century were still there. The cleared, trenched, water-filled terrain served as a testament to man's failure to beat the heat, logistics, and engineering challenges of the day.

     What to watch for are any protests by defenders of Nicaraguan's indigenous/rural communities and those concerned with ecological impacts, done via virtual or live protests. To counter any discontent, the Nicaraguan government will likely engage in a huge canal promotion campaign, which would have to managed by foreign media experts with local input.

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