A British consultancy Environmental Resources Management Ltd. (ERM) has delivered an eagerly anticipated social and environmental study on the impact of the proposed Nicaragua Canal, Telemaco Talavera, the spokesman of the government canal commission, was quoted as saying by UK’s The Daily Mail.
Talavera did not reveal much to the local media, just saying that ERM’s study concluded that the Canal offered potential benefits for the environment and the Nicaraguans.
An EMR spokesman said that the company was not for, nor against the project, adding that the study revealed potential challenges the Nicaraguan government and the contractor – the Hong Kong-based HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co Ltd (HKND Group) – could face.
An inter-institutional commission will discuss the results of the study in June, with the canal commission voting on it in July.
The completion of the study is a first significant development within the project since the groundbreaking ceremony organised back in December.
Nicaragua Grand Canal is a proposed 172-mile waterway, 230 to 520 metres wide and 27.6 metres deep, making it longer, wider and deeper than the 51-mile Panama Canal to the south.
This USD 50 billion project is expected to be completed in five years with the Canal becoming operational by 2020. According to HKDN Group, the Canal project will include 6 sub projects: the Canal (including locks), 2 ports, a free trade zone, holiday resorts, an international airport and several roads. In addition, there will be construction of a power station, cement factory, steel factory and other related facilities.
Back in March, a consortium of 21 environmental scientists from North and South America expressed a 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 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.”
World Maritime News Staff;