China’s HKND Group received an environmental permit for its USD 50-billion Nicaragua Interoceanic Grand Canal Project.
After HKND submitted the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) to the Government of Nicaragua in May this year, the government approved the Assessment for the Grand Canal Project and issued the environmental permit, having determined that it would have a positive environmental and social impact.
“This is a project that will bring significant economic, social and environmental benefits,” Telemaco Talavera, the spokesman of the Canal Commission, said.
Pang Kwok Wai, Executive Vice President of HKND Group, said that obtaining the environmental permit is a major milestone in the development of the project and added that the canal project was now poised for a new phase of development.
“The ESIA process has been exhaustive and we spent longer completing it than we original envisaged, because we listened to the input we received about the design and made various changes that have improved it. We’re really pleased that the project can now move forward with full speed and with the sincere support from many sectors of the country,” Chief Project Advisor of HKND Group, Bill Wild from Australia, said after receiving the permit.
Running in parallel with the government’s review process, nine public consultation meetings were held by the government and HKND. The consultation meetings attracted around 3,000 participants.
According to the latest public opinion poll completed on 14th October, 2015, cited by HKND, 77.6% of the entire Nicaraguan population supported the Canal Project while 70% of Nicaraguans considered the Interoceanic Canal Project as serious.
Experts have estimated that the project will directly or indirectly create up to 250,000 jobs during the construction phase.
Environmental Resources Management (ERM) said in the ESIA report that the Canal will have positive social impacts on the country: “It is anticipated that construction and operation of a Canal de Nicaragua would significantly benefit the Nicaraguan economy as a result of increased economic production, corporate diversity, and markets; more jobs, increased personal income and spending, improved skills and experience of workers as well as improved transport infrastructure.”
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.
When the construction of the canal started in December 2014, hundreds of protesters and country’s environmentalists were against the project. Residents along the planned route, as well as a number of the country’s politicians and environmentalists, have opposed the project, stating as the main reasons the Canal’s impact on the country’s freshwater sources.