NICARAGUA NEWS (MENAFN – AFP) A Chinese firm hired to dig a canal across Nicaragua linking the Caribbean and the Pacific said it has begun assessing property and land that will have to expropriated and people who will be displaced.

745bfada02200ce43b82510523087cfa02f3fb92Work on the 40 billion, 278-km (172 miles) project to rival the Panama Canal is scheduled to begin late this year.

The company HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment said in a statement that another firm, Changjiang Institute of Survey, Planning, Design and Research, will carry out the study with the help of the Nicaraguan government and army.

President Daniel Ortega has said the project will create enough work to help alleviate poverty that affects more than half the population of this Central American country.

But environmentalists are worried, in particular about the effects of ship traffic on a lake that is along the path of the planned canal. Lake Cocibolca is the largest freshwater body in Central America.