It's hard to find anyone who believes China is actually going to build that $50 billion canal across Nicaragua

It has been just over two years since Nicaragua approved a Chinese tycoon’s $US50 billion plan to build a canal that would span across the small country, from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean.

Initially the proposal for the massive canal seemed a bit ridiculous, but the project did actually get off the ground amid protests last December.

Yet it seems that not much has been done on the project since the intial work was done, according to Bloomberg reporter Michael McDonald, who spent a few days in El Tule. The village southeast of Lake Nicaragua is, according to the Nicaraguan government, one of the key points of the project.

McDonald writes that a clear sentiment dominates the population who lives in the village that is supposed to be uprooted when construction for the 173-mile canal continues: scepticism.

According to McDonald, the people who live in El Tule have not seen any workers in months. The only sign that something is being done was the sighting of Chinese engineers last year and the enlargement of a road close to a port.

Lake NicaraguaCourtesy Erin FuchsLake Nicaragua

The project would need 16 million cubic meters of concrete and about 1 million tons of steel, materials which would almost all need to be imported from China along with bulldozers and cranes. The excavation of4 billion cubic meters of rock and soil would also be required.

Jose Mena Cortez, a rancher, told McDonald he had seen it all before, promises from politicians of public works and growth. “They always come with big plans, and they never do anything,” he said.

The deal was struck between President Daniel Ortega and Chinese businessman Wang Jing, awarding him a 50-year concession to build and operate the canal in return for $US10 million a year once the project is completed.

It would indubitably bring growth to one of the poorest countries in South America, but to many it is just another empty promise.

Some Nicaraguans also fear evictions and repercussions. Thousands protested again against the project in June with some protesters accusing Ortega of selling his own country, according to the BBC.

The promise for commerce would also come at an environmental price, as it would pass through Lake Nicaragua, the largest source of fresh water in Latin America. Nicaraguans still need to sign off on the environmental impact study submitted by the Hong Kong-based HKND Group in charge of the project.

While the BBC reported the project is slated to be completed in five years, McDonald writes that many people have serious doubts about whether Ortega and his partners in China ever really planned on building the canal at all.

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