Environment: Trouble Ahead for the Canal?

Deforestation in Panama may bring on a water shortage

Seventy-three years after it opened to link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Panama Canal remains one of the engineering marvels of the world. At one end of the 50-mile-long waterway, the 12,000 ships that traverse it annually are lifted 85 ft. above sea level by a series of locks, enabling them to sail through the mountainous spine of the Panama Isthmus. When they reach the opposite coast, another set of locks floats them gently back down to the ocean.

The operation of these aquatic elevators consumes a prodigious amount of fresh water. Each time a ship passes through the canal,...

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