On Wednesday November 10 the National Assembly of Nicaragua approved the “Law that Rehabilitates the Commercial Navigation in the River San Juan”.
In a special ceremony held at the Old San Francis Convent in the city of Granada today Monday November 29th President Arnoldo Aleman signed the Law awarding the 30-year concession to EcoCanal S.A. to build operate and transfer a private low-draft waterway in the historic River San Juan.
In the first phase the waterway will connect the Caribbean Sea to Lake Nicaragua. This route was operational from 1544 to 1880 when an earthquake produced some rapids in the river making it impossible for commercial navigation. Later the opening of the Panama Canal and the signing of the Chamorro-Bryant Treaty with the U.S. made the Nicaraguan people to forget about the need of this waterway.
A second phase of the project connecting Lake Nicaragua with the Pacific Ocean through a 13-mile canal will make the final connection between the coasts.
This is the first time that a concession on the River San Juan has been approved since late 1800‘s. In addition this is the first time that a concession has been awarded to a Nicaraguan enterprise.
In a speech at the signing on November 29 Gabriel Pasos cited the importance of the Rio San Juan to the existence of Nicaragua. The Spaniards who originally explored the region were seeking a water route from the Caribbean to the Pacific he said. In 1544 residents of the newly established settlements of Granada and Leon sought help from King Carlos of Spain to improve navigation on the river (in the form of 50 slaves to dig out the sandbars and rapids. They referred to the river as the desaguadero or drain.)
Now 450 years later this dream will be fulfilled said Pasos who has been spokesperson for the canal project throughout the planning (See “Nicaraguan Legislators Approve Shallow Draft Channel in Rio San Juan” IDR March/April 1999 page 12.)