Scientists Warn Nicaragua Canal Could Turn Into Eco Disaster

Scientist Warn Nicaragua Canal Could Turn Into Eco Disaster

A consortium of 21 environmental scientists from North and South America has expressed strong concern about the impact of the controversial Nicaragua Canal through a coauthored paper titled ”Scientists Raise Alarms About Fast Tracking of Transoceanic Canal Through Nicaragua.”

The Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Group, is building the 172-mile, USD 50 billion canal in collaboration with the Nicaraguan government, which granted the concession last June. Preparation for the project has begun with the construction of roads to move heavy equipment and supplies into place, with the first ships scheduled to pass through the canal in late 2019. It will be longer, wider and deeper than the 51-mile Panama Canal to the south.

The Canal will cut through Lake Cocibolca (aka Lake Nicaragua), Central America’s main freshwater reservoir and the largest tropical freshwater lake of the Americas; this plan will force the relocation of indigenous populations and impact a fragile ecosystem, including species at risk of extinction, according to Rice University environmental engineer Pedro Alvarez and other members of the consortium.

”The biggest environmental challenge is to build and operate the canal without catastrophic impacts to this sensitive ecosystem,” Alvarez said. ”Significant impacts to the lake could result from incidental or accidental spills from 5,100 ships passing through every year; invasive species brought by transoceanic ships, which could threaten the extinction of aquatic plants and fish, such as the cichlids that have been evolving since the lake’s formation; and frequent dredging, impacting aquatic life through alterations in turbidity and hypoxia, triggered by resuspension of nutrients and organic matter that exert a relatively high biochemical oxygen demand.”

Alvarez and his colleagues wrote that dredging required to open a channel in the lake deep and wide enough for ships will disperse enough sediment to lower its oxygen content and kill marine life. They anticipate the project will impact Nicaragua’s ecotourism and the supply of fresh water for drinking, irrigation and power generation.

The researchers listed their concerns in three broad categories: water and sediments, biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, and socio-economic impact.

They acknowledged Nicaragua’s hope that the Canal, one of the largest engineering projects ever attempted, would create jobs and lift the nation out of extreme poverty; but they are concerned the benefits would not match expectations, particularly since the Nicaraguan government ”has not published a detailed business plan for the canal.”

”Nicaragua should prepare and publicly vet a detailed economic assessment that includes not only a cost-benefit analysis but also considers externalities associated with national economic development, environmental impacts, social equity, human rights and legal and national security issues,’‘ the authors of the paper wrote.

Source: Rice University; Image: Rice University

Share this article

Follow World Maritime News

2 thoughts on “Scientists Warn Nicaragua Canal Could Turn Into Eco Disaster”

  1. Whilst I cannot doubt their scientific “findings” and environmental points, they should not call the overall finances into question – else they promote damaging an environment for capital gain as being quite acceptable. The solution therefore could be to by pass the lake and take the canal along a different route, albeit with additional costs no doubt.

Comments are closed.

In Depth>

Events>

<< Feb 2018 >>
MTWTFSS
29 30 31 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 1 2 3 4

Shipping 360

This course is ideal for those who have recently joined the maritime sector and those who need to have a better understanding…

read more >

APM – ASIA PACIFIC MARITIME 2018

27 years in the making, APM is the premier shipbuilding & marine, workboat and offshore exhibition in Asia trusted by generations of industry professionals.

read more >

Shippax Ferry Conference 2018

The two-day onboard ferry conference was first organized in 2003 and grows ever more popular with some 400 delegates from over 40 ferry…

read more >

8th Dredging & Land Reclamation World Summit 2018

The 8th Dredging and Land Reclamation Summit 2018 will gather the decision makers from Authorities and Operators responsible for ports…

read more >