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Nicaragua canal plan worries Costa Rica

Published:Friday | July 5, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Costa Rica is worried about a plan to build a canal across neighbouring Nicaragua because it would affect rivers along their shared border, its government said Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo said that even if the canal is built along Lake Nicaragua, it would affect the riverbeds at the San Juan River, which runs along their border, and the San Carlos River in northern Costa Rica.

"Costa Rica still has doubts (about the project) since one of the possible routes includes using Lake Nicaragua," Castillo said.

Castillo said that Costa Rica will wait for Nicaragua to define the canal's route before raising its concerns with the Nicaraguan government.

Costa Rica and Nicaragua have a two-century-old territorial dispute over a piece of land the size of Liechtenstein - which measures 62 square miles - along the San Juan River.

Earlier this month, Nicaragua's National Assembly voted to grant Hong Kong-based HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company a 50-year concession to study, then possibly build and run the canal. A first proposal says it would run through Lake Nicaragua, the country's primary source of fresh water.

The canal is expected to be a US$40-billion venture.

Castillo said the Costa Rican ambassador in China has already spoken to Wang Jing, the Chinese businessman hired to plan and perhaps build the project to rival the Panama Canal, about their concerns and the territorial dispute.

Jing said on Wednesday, June 26, in Beijing that his team is proposing ways to minimise risk by routing the canal through the middle of Nicaragua to avoid any potential border dispute with neighbouring Costa Rica.

Wang said he hopes to deliver the feasibility report a year from now, and that the project would break ground by the end of 2014 and be completed in less than six years.

- AP