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One Big Dig In Nicaragua47:04
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Nicaragua breaks ground on a massive new Atlantic-to-Pacific canal. Big Chinese money – and big environmental concerns – in Central America.

Residents burn tires at a blockade on the Pan-American highway during the groundbreaking day of the $50 billion transoceanic waterway construction project predicted to rival the Panama Canal, in Managua, Nicaragua, Monday, Dec. 22. 2014. (AP)
Residents burn tires at a blockade on the Pan-American highway during the groundbreaking day of the $50 billion transoceanic waterway construction project predicted to rival the Panama Canal, in Managua, Nicaragua, Monday, Dec. 22. 2014. (AP)

Everybody knows the Panama Canal.  Vital sea lane linking Atlantic and Pacific.  Long run by the US, till 1999, as an American outpost in Central America.  A fixture.  It could soon have competition.  A mysterious Chinese billionaire is pushing hard to build a much bigger canal across Nicaragua.  A massive, $50 billion project – three times the size of the Panama Canal.  The Nicaraguan government says yes, please.  The Nicaraguan people, not so clear.  And would it be a massive Chinese outpost in Central America?  This hour On Point: the amazing tale of the Nicaragua Canal.
-- Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Sara Van Note, independent reporter based in Nicaragua. (@svannotes)

Jon Lee Anderson, staff writer for the New Yorker. (@jonleeanderson)

Jonathan Watts, Latin America correspondent for the Guardian. Author of the book "When a Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Save Mankind — Or Destroy It." (@jonathanwatts)

From Tom’s Reading List

New Yorker: Breaking Ground on the Nicaragua Canal — "A few days before Christmas, in Brito, Nicaragua, on the Pacific coast, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the world’s latest megaproject. The Nicaragua Canal is expected to take five years to complete and cost fifty billion dollars; when finished (if it is ever finished), the hundred-and-seventy-two-mile canal will bisect Nicaragua from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean."

The Guardian: Land of opportunity and fear along route of Nicaragua’s giant new canal -- "In an era of breathtaking, earth-changing engineering projects, this has been billed as the biggest of them all. Three times as long and almost twice as deep as its rival in Panama, Nicaragua’s channel will require the removal of more than 4.5bn cubic metres of earth – enough to bury the entire island of Manhattan up to the 21st floor of the Empire State Building. It will also swamp the economy, society and environment of one of Latin America’s poorest and most sparsely populated countries. Senior officials compare the scale of change to that brought by the arrival of the first colonisers."

Agence France Presse:Journalists harassed, detained in latest chapter of Nicaragua canal saga --" Canal protesters aren’t the only ones clashing with police in Nicaragua. As the Nicaraguan government and Chinese company Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. detained and even robbed by police."

See A Map Of The Proposed Nicaraguan Canal

nicacanal

This program aired on February 4, 2015.

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