The route for a $40bn canal across Nicaragua designed to rival Panama’s has been given the seal of approval by a government committee.
A 172 mile (278km) route from the mouth of the Brito river on the Pacific side of the Central American country to the Punto Gorda river on the Caribbean had been proposed by executives from the HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment (HKND Group).
The proposed canal would pass through Lake Nicaragua, Central America's largest lake, and will be between 230m and 520m wide and 27.6m deep, said HKND engineer Dong Yunsong.
The proposed route was approved by a committee of government officials, businessmen and academics, but still faces environmental and social impact studies that could recommend some changes to the plan.
However those studies should be finished later this year to allow work to begin by December, said committee member Telemaco Talavera, who revealed that if the canal clears these hurdles it should be completed in 2019 and begin operations in 2020.
The Hong Kong-based HKND group, which is leading the project, is headed by Chinese lawyer Wang Jing, who also heads Chinese company Xinwei Telecom Enterprise Group.
The proposed channel would be more than three times longer than the 48-mile (77km) Panama Canal, completed in 1914, which took the USA a decade to build at the narrowest part of the Central American isthmus.
But opponents of the plan are concerned about the canal's effect on Lake Nicaragua, an important fresh water source for the country, as well as the impact on poor communities.