Cambodia’s US$1.7 billion China-backed canal sparked unease. Here’s how it can soothe concerns

The 180km Funan Techo Canal project has the potential to supercharge Cambodia’s economy by providing the country’s first-ever inland-sea link.

A groundswell of public enthusiasm has met Cambodia’s launch of the 180km Funan Techo Canal project, which proponents say will propel the nation towards becoming a thriving, modern economy. But sceptics have raised concerns over the plan’s possible spillover effects, arguing that it could jeopardise the health of the vital Mekong River and trigger geopolitical tensions.

The US$1.7 billion belt and road project is set to be built over the next four years under a build-operate-transfer agreement, Cambodia’s government signed in October, with the Chinese state-owned China Bridge and Road Corporation.

The project’s supporters hail the canal as a groundbreaking and innovative endeavour that will establish Cambodia’s first-ever inland-sea link – boosting commercial activity, and benefiting domestic producers and farmers, by enabling the more competitive transport of locally-produced goods to outside markets.

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