MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — An environmental study has concluded a planned $50 billion canal across this Central American nation is "viable," officials said Monday, but without releasing details of the report.
Canal Commission spokesman Telemaco Talavera said the next step is to submit the findings to an analysis conducted jointly with the Environment Ministry. He said the proposed 172-mile (278-kilometer) route for the canal has been determined to be the right one.
Environmental activists, Nicaraguans who stand to be displaced and President Daniel Ortega's political opponents have criticized the project, including what they say has been a lack of transparency since it was first announced.
Crews broke ground on access roads related to the canal in December, but have yet to start digging the waterway itself. Some experts doubt it will ultimately be built due to financial, environmental and social concerns.
Xu Changbao of HKND, the Chinese company with the commission to build the canal, said the impact study demonstrates a serious commitment to the project.
"We will work together with the Nicaraguan people to realize this 100-year-old dream," Xu said.
Grand Canal Authority president Manuel Coronel Kautz said the report prepared by British-based consultant Environmental Resources Management was delivered Sunday.
An executive at the consulting firm, Manuel Roman, said the study was the result of two years of field research.