The Nicaraguan government and the Chinese company awarded a concession to build and operate an interoceanic canal announced Saturday that construction would begin in December of this year.

"The construction works will begin, according to the schedule, in December of this year 2014," the Central American government said in a brief press release dated Jan. 10 and signed by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and the concession holder, Beijing-based Wang Jing.

The president of Nicaragua's canal authority, Manuel Coronel Kautz, said last Sunday that construction of the waterway would not start in May, as initially announced, but instead late this year or the beginning of 2015.

The Nicaraguan project contemplates an interoceanic canal wider than the one in Panama, at a cost of $40 billion, according to official estimates.

The canal would connect the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and would be accompanied by an oil pipeline, a dry route, two deepwater ports, two airports and two duty-free zones, according to Nicaraguan authorities.

Opposition political parties, non-governmental organizations, defenders of human rights, businessmen, lawyers, environmentalists and a number of dignitaries filed a legal challenge to block the project, but the Supreme Court ruled in December that it did not violate the constitution. EFE