MANAGUA, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Nicaraguan legislators on Thursday proposed
creating a $50 million commercial waterway linking Nicaragua's Pacific region
to the Caribbean, reviving a trade route that dates to the 16th Century.
The proposal, introduced as a bill to the National Assembly, would grant
EcoCanal S.A. the rights to the project, beginning with a feasibility study, in
the hopes of starting construction in 2000, EcoCanal officials said.
"The idea is to rehabilitate an old commercial waterway for the 21st Century
and the globalized market," Tim Coone, EcoCanal's technical director, told
EcoCanal is a private firm that incorporated last year to promote the canal,
which is meant to aid the transportation of goods within Nicaragua and is not
seen as a competitor to the Panama Canal.
Nicaragua's Pacific Coast is cut off from the Caribbean Sea by a large
mountain range and jungle terrain. There is no highway connecting the two
coasts. But Lake Nicaragua, the largest freshwater lake in Central America,
dumps into the San Juan River, which crosses the isthmus and reaches the
Spanish colonists once sailed the route in the 1500s, making it an important
trade avenue to move commerce between Spain's American colonies and the
But geological changes over the years have rendered the San Juan difficult
navigate. The plan introduced on Thursday would require dredging part of the
river, a biologically diverse and relatively undisturbed ecosystem sometimes
called the Amazon of Central America.
The 200-mile (325-km) waterway would run from Granada on the
northwestern edge of Lake Nicaragua to San Juan del Norte at the mouth of
the San Juan River on the Caribbean Coast.
It would accommodate boats carrying up to 200 metric tons of cargo and
could cut in half the cost of transporting goods within Nicaragua, Coone said.
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.