Construction of the Nicaragua Grand Canal project is set to begin on December 22.
The canal will stretch 278 kilometers, will vary in width from 230 meters to 520 meters and will be 27.6 meters deep. The canal will be 3.5 times longer than the Panama canal and almost twice as deep.
The $50 billion project, developed by Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co, is expected to be completed by 2020 and will accommodate large LNG carriers and oil tankers from the U.S. and Venezuela heading toward China.
According to Reuters, Chinese businessman Wang Jin, who is behind the canal plan, has no prior experience developing big infrastructure projects like this one. His company was established in August 2012, prompting some to question whether the project was feasible.
Many also speculate about the environmental impact of the project.
According to Germany’s Der Spiegel, the canal is expected to pass through Lake Nicaragua, Central America’s largest lake and a source of fresh water for the entire country.
If the river is dredged and straightened out as expected, however, a village along Río Brito could reportedly disappear and about 30,000 people will have to be resettled.
Building a canal that splits the country could also lead to environmental issues as thousands of square kilometers of forested area will likely have to be cleared.
The canal is expected to generate annual revenue of at least $5.5 billion and capture 4.5% of global cargo shipping traffic.
The Panama Canal is currently being expanded and other Central American countries are planning to construct more “dry canals”, or train lines connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.