Interoceanic Grand Canal project, Nicaragua

The Grand Canal idea coming back again to cut across Nicaragua for goods transportation and fast communication. Indigenous territories, natural resources and the Nicaragua lake will be affected in the name of fast transportation and regional integration.


The idea of constructing a interoceanic canal in Nicaragua is not new. Since the 19th century, the United States of America and France considered the idea, but it was abandoned when the French government preferred to construct an interoceanic canal in Panama.

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Basic Data
NameInteroceanic Grand Canal project, Nicaragua
Province Región Autónoma del Atlántico Sur (RAAS), Chontales, Rivas, Río San Juan, Masaya, Granada y Carazo
SiteMore than 20 cities in different provinces
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Water access rights and entitlements
Ports and airport projects
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Specific CommoditiesLand
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsEstimated at 278 km. in length, the waterway is to traverse Nicaragua from west to east, beginning at the mouth of the Brito River on the Pacific coast and then continuing across Lake Nicaragua (105 km. wide) and finally reaching the Caribbean.

The interoceanic canal will have the capacity to capture 416 millions of metric tons that represents the 3.9 percent of global maritime cargo, including Super Post Panamax ships.

The project will also include the following constructions :

-Two seaports

-An international airport

- Free Trade Zone

-Residential areas to house some 140,000 residents.

-Highways to “revitalize the transit network” that will disappear when the canal is finished.

-power plant and 41 depots for sediment dredged from rivers.

The constructions is to begin in December 2014 and would be completed within six years.
Project Area (in hectares)unknown
Level of Investment (in USD)40,000,000,000.00
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population1,500,000 - 2,000,000
Start Date03/07/2012
Company Names or State EnterprisesChina Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) from China - subcontracted by HKND for technical feasibility studies
McKinsey & Company (McKinsey & Company) from United States of America - subcontracted by HKND for based data and analysis
Environmental Resource Management (ERM ) - subcontracted for social and environmental impact assessments.
Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co (HKND group) from China - Concessionaire
Relevant government actorsGovernmet of Nicaragua, Authority of the Interoceanic Grand Canal, Supreme Justice Court
International and Financial InstitutionsInternational Human Rights Commission (IHRC)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCoordinadora de la comunidad negra creole indígena de Bluefields (CCNCB), Centro Humboldt (CH), Consejo de Ancianos del Caribe sur, Centro de Asistencia Legal a Pueblos Indígenas (CALPI), Fundación Popol Na, Fundación del Río, Grupo Cocibolca
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local ejos
Social movements
Fisher people
Local government/political parties
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local scientists/professionals
Informal workers
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of alternative proposals
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Public campaigns
Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Refusal of compensation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Global warming
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Malnutrition, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
OtherDisplacement would affect miskito, ulwa and creole communities.
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (undecided)
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The Nicaraguan government affirm that the construction is going to begin in December 2014 but no environmental and social viability studies has been published. The project status is unknown and day after day, less viable.
Sources and Materials

Convención Ramsar
[click to view]

Convenio 169. OIT
[click to view]

Carta Americana sobre Derechos Humanos
[click to view]

Ley No. 800. Ley del régimen jurídico del Gran Canal y creación de la autoridad reguladora, julio 2012.
[click to view]


Proyecto de Desarrollo Integral del Gran Canal de Nicaragua, informe plan de diseño presentado por HKND
[click to view]


Tico Times (2014). Nicaragua's ambitious interoceanic canal will cross Lake Nicaragua, officials say
[click to view]

Nodal (2014) Nicaragua: indígenas piden a la CIDH protección ante Gran Canal
[click to view]

El Nuevo diario (2013) Indígenas recurren contra Ley del Canal
[click to view]

La Nación (2014). Costa Rica pide a Nicaragua estudios ambientales del proyecto del canal interoceánico
[click to view]

El nuevo diario (2014). Nicaragua: Presentan ruta del Gran Canal Interoceánico
[click to view]

Confidencial (2014) Expertos advierten sobre falta de estudios sobre el lago Cocibolca y riesgos ambientales
[click to view]

Nicaragua-Chinese partnership announces planned route for proposed inter-oceanic canal
[click to view]

Media Links

Programa de radio ECOS por Silvana Buján, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata. Entrevista a Victor Campos del Centro Humboldt
[click to view]

El 19 digital. "Gran Canal de Nicaragua tiene definida su ruta" (conferencia de prensa)
[click to view]

HispanTV. La Gran Historia - Nicaragua: El Canal interoceánico
[click to view]

Other Documents

LEY No. 800 relativa a la creación del canal y a la autoridad reguladora julio 2012
[click to view]

Ruta del Canal Interoceánico Fuente: El Nuevo Diario
[click to view]

Foro sobre la construcción del canal Fuente : La Prensa
[click to view]

Grand Canal Infographics Source:
[click to view]

Grand Canal advertisement board Source:
[click to view]

Manifestaciones contra el canal
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorGrettel Navas, Fundación Neotrópica
Last update04/11/2014