El Nuevo Diario: HKND Studies the Resettlement Plan
Original Title: HKND Studies Changes to the Canal
Note: This article was the headline on the front page of El Nuevo Diario of Nicaragua on August 3rd, 2015. The Executive Vice President of HKND Group, Kwok Wai Pang explained the principles of land acquisition, compensation, resettlement and protection of indigenous culture in the Nicaragua Interoceanic Canal Project, along with its environmental mitigation measures.
By: Benjamín Blanco
How does this project ensure the legitimate rights and interests of the people affected in the planned route of the Canal?
The rights of the Nicaraguan people are protected by the Law 840 and other laws and regulations of Nicaragua. In addition, HKND Group´s Chairman Wang Jing has committed to paying "fair market value" for the expropriation of properties and to ensuring that relocated people will receive a new house that is at least as good as their old one, and with the full range of social infrastructure and services. HKND has also demonstrated that it listens and responds to the legitimate concerns raised by citizens (e.g. relocating the canal to avoid the township of El Tule and relocating the entrance of the canal at Brito to avoid sensitive environmental areas). HKND is confident that all people will be better off with the construction of the canal.
What standards will be followed to build the resettlement villages? Where will they be located?
HKND will at a minimum meet standards established by the Government of Nicaragua.
The Government of Nicaragua, in consultation with HKND, will assign sites for the villages along the canal (on both the eastern and western sides). The resettlement sites will be located to minimize the distance that people would be from their existing home site and to ensure that the villages are fully serviced with the whole range of social infrastructure (power, water, sewage, roads) and social amenities (medical, educational, police and social services).
What is the basis or starting point of the resettlement plan?
HKND's Resettlement Action Plan is being prepared in accordance with Best International Practice, as laid down by the World Bank and IFC (International Finance Corporation). HKND is receiving input from the Government of Nicaragua and external professional consultants. There will be an independent monitor appointed to ensure that the Plan requirements are fully implemented.
When would the company begin to pay compensation to the affected people, or would have agreements with them?
Progress of land expropriation and compensation will be in accordance with project progress. We need to wait for the approval of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) together with mitigation measures agreed with the Government of Nicaragua before we can proceed with finalizing the design for the Canal; until then, we shall start the land acquisition in accordance with construction needs.
The company said last year that it would pay fair prices for the properties. What is a fair price?
Although the MCA (Master Concession and Implementation Agreement) and Law 840 establish that HKND should pay the lesser of cadastral value and market value, our Chairman has committed to paying "Fair Market Value". The Chairman has made this commitment to pay above the minimum set out by law, on the condition that measures are adopted to discourage land speculations and other actions that would artificially increase prices. The MCA and Law 840 provide for a cut-off date in order to avoid such activity and we think that it is fair that we insist on a mechanism like this to ensure that the market prices agreed are fair to both parties.
I would like to stress again that the MCA and Law 840 ensured that HKND would not be paying unreasonable price for property by setting a cut-off date and by specifying the price as the lesser of cadastral and market price. Adopting just the market price is obviously more generous, but it must not be subject to manipulation.
How to ensure the economic sustainability of the relocated people? Are there training or employment programs for the affected people?
People currently on farm properties will receive adequate compensation for them to re-establish if necessary or will be offered "land for land". HKND has committed to offering all displaced persons the opportunity to work on the canal construction (or operations) and to be trained appropriately for those positions. In addition, the economic boost for Nicaragua that will flow from the canal will create employment opportunities across the whole community. Economic activity in Nicaragua is expected to at least double with the construction of the canal and the spin off in jobs will be similar to what has occurred in Panama.
According to the findings of the environmental and social impact studies, what adjustments would be made with regard to population movements?
Our principle is to comply with the best international practices, respect local culture and tradition and promote sustainable development in local and surrounding areas. With recommendation from experts we have put extra care on the moving distances and cultural needs for the people being affected by the canal.
What environmental mitigation measures would be required to be carried out on the basis of these studies?
In accordance with best international practice, the ESIA envisages a suite of measures to protect the environment. These include:
a) "Embedded controls" - design requirements incorporated in the design of the canal to protect the environment and minimize damage to it,
b) "Mitigation measures" - adopted to overcome or mitigate environmental damage that is unavoidable, and
c) "Offsets"- actions that HKND will undertake itself or provide funding for in order to make up for actual damage caused.
HKND has committed to achieving a Net Positive Environmental Impact which means in essence that the damage to the environment that is unavoidable will be more than balanced by positive benefits to the environment. This is a requirement of the World Bank that HKND has adopted as a guiding principle.
How much has raised the total investment of the work, after adjustments on the route and recent studies?
The 50 billion USD is the estimated amount after the route adjustments in Brito, Rivas Department and El Tule. We do not rule out possibility for further adjustment after the Government of Nicaragua studied the ESIA.
Days ago Telémaco Talavera said that there are investors for the Canal. Who are they?
This is very sensitive information that will only be disclosed when contracts are signed with business partners to avoid unnecessary speculations in the financial market, which is an international practice.
ESIA is still under analysis by the Government of Nicaragua. When does HKND expect to receive the results?
The ESIA is still being reviewed by the Government of Nicaragua and they are still well within the time available to them and well within the time that an ESIA for such a large project would normally be under consideration.
HKND is expecting questions from the Government of Nicaragua on various issues with the ESIA including but not limited to clarifications, technical opinion, environmental mitigations … etc.
In addition, HKND is looking at modifications to the canal design to address the impacts identified by the ESIA.
The approach under way is entirely in accordance with best international practice.
How to protect the rights of vulnerable groups among the relocated population?
Apart from their normal entitlement, the underprivileged people can have extra non-monetary help to relocate their homes to the new resettlement villages.
How to maintain the cultural heritage of the communities? How would the lifestyles and traditions of indigenous communities be preserved?
We have employed and will keep employing local cultural experts to advise us on preserving local culture, especially those of the Indigenous People.
How to protect the archaeological sites and works?
We shall be responsible for identifying, recording, digging and sorting of archaeological artifacts discovered before and during canal construction and handover to the Government of Nicaragua.
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