A Nicaraguan congressional committee has approved giving a China-based consortium the concession to build and operate a canal between the Pacific and Caribbean, fast-tracking the huge development project over objections from the opposition.

Infrastructure committee president Jenny Martinez says the bill was immediately sent to the National Assembly after Monday's vote.

Opposition lawmakers voted against it, saying the initiative is being rushed and has too many obscure points.

President Daniel Ortega's Sandinista Front controls the national legislature, which is expected to vote on the bill Thursday.

The Chinese company HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Ltd. is working with the Nicaraguan government on the canal project. Experts say it could take 11 years to finish, cost $40 billion and require digging about 130 miles (200 kilometers) of waterway.