Chinese company postpones start of construction on inter-ocean canal to cross Nicaragua

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – A Chinese company said Wednesday it is delaying the start of construction on a $50 billion inter-ocean canal across Nicaragua until late 2016.

China’s HKND Co. got approval for environmental studies of the canal earlier this month. But on Wednesday, a company statement said that “the construction of locks and the big excavations will start toward the end of 2016.”

The company gave no reason for the delay, but said that “the canal’s design is currently being fine-tuned.”

Nicaraguan authorities have already approved the proposed 172-mile (278-kilometre) route for the canal.

Crews broke ground on access roads for the project last December, but have yet to start digging the waterway itself.

The plan has drawn protests from farmers who fear their land will be seized for the project. Environmentalists fear the project has not been adequately studied and worry about the possible effects on Lake Nicaragua and fresh water supplies.

Some experts doubt the canal will ultimately be built due to financial, environmental and social concerns.