First Public Consultation held for Nicaragua Grand Canal's ESIA report
On September 24, 2015, Government of Nicaragua held in Managua the first public consultation for the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report of the Nicaragua Interoceanic Canal Project. Senior officials of HKND Group were present at the session to disclose details to the public of Nicaragua about the ESIA for the first time.
A total of 400 people participated in the public consultation, including representatives from environmental organizations, NGOs, the Catholic Church and other religious groups, COSEP, AmCham Nicaragua, labor unions, Rama and Kriol Territorial Government, Nicaragua Canal and Development Project Commission, local authorities, as well as university principals, ecological and environmental scientists and resident representatives from various communities along the Canal route. Also present in this session, celebrated by the Government of Nicaragua, were diplomats to Nicaragua from Western and Latin American countries, as well as representatives of United Nations agencies, European Union, International Monetary Fund and Pan American Health Organisation in Nicaragua together with many local media.
As the world's leading sustainability consultancy, the British company Environmental Resources Management (ERM) organized a leading team of hundreds of world-class experts in environmental and social studies to conduct extensive field investigations and analysis. The report covers a wide range of scientific disciplines including geology, soil, groundwater, marine and freshwater ecosystems, etc.; while the social studies cover community health, cultural heritage, local economy and employment and so on. After two years of hard work, ERM completed the ESIA comprising of 14 volumes with 11,000 pages and up to 2.75 million words. The magnitude and accomplishment of this investigation is unprecedented through the history of Nicaragua. Large amount of highly valuable statistics and information are obtained for the Canal Project as well as for people of Nicaragua.
On May 31, 2015, HKND Group received the ESIA report from the British company ERM for the Interoceanic Canal Project and submitted it to the Government of Nicaragua in the capital city of Managua. According to Nicaraguan law, before getting government approval, the ESIA report must be subject to public consultation.
The public consultation lasted for nearly 6 hours. Pang Kwok Wai, Executive Vice President of HKND Group, gave a thorough presentation of the environmental and social impacts of the Canal Project in the morning session. As he puts it, Nicaragua is experiencing a deteriorating environment and an ever increasing rate of deforestation in recent years. As a result, most of the forests in Nicaragua will disappear within 10 to 15 years even without the Canal. However, as part of the Canal Project, a massive reforestation program will be launched. This will not only provide continue forest coverage to restore the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, but also quarantine the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve from further human encroachment. HKND sees the Canal Project as the only practicable way for vegetation protection and ecosystem restoration in Nicaragua.
According to Pang, in the course of achieving environmental and social positives, modifications have been made to the original Canal design in order to avoid or mitigate some of its negative impacts. The economic growth triggered by the Project will definitely bring wealth to Nicaragua with the funds necessary for conservation of its ecosystem.
Pang also emphasized that the social impact of the Canal will be hugely positive since the Project will drive the economic development of Nicaragua, create more jobs as well as improve the social infrastructure with better facilities for transportation, public health and education, etc. HKND is totally committed to ensuring that affected people will be better off after Canal is built. The Canal Project will achieve considerable positive environmental and social impact on Nicaragua.
According to the study of ERM, there are a number of potential archaeological sites along the Canal route. As stated by Pang, the developer will be responsible for investigation, record, excavate and deliver the artifacts to the Government of Nicaragua and will assist in protection and storage of these artifacts by building museums with the Government.
The Chief Project Advisor of HKND Group, Bill Wild, for the first time, made a public disclosure regarding the ESIA report. According to Bill, ERM affirmed in the report that the Canal Project has fully adopted international best practices in many aspects. ERM believes that if the development of the Project will always comply with international standards, the Canal "could offer the best future for Nicaragua and could provide environmental, social and economic benefits to the Nicaraguan people".
The ESIA report demonstrates that the Grand Canal will have a positive impact on social and environmental terms. Upon taking appropriate mitigation measures on Project impacts, the mega project will eventually produce a “net positive” environmental and social impact. ERM believes that preliminary analysis shows that the design of Canal is safe and reliable and that the Lake Nicaragua will have minimal impact caused by the Project.
In the afternoon, HKND representatives and the Nicaragua Canal Commission attended the question and answer session of the public consultation. Answering the public’s questions, they provided more information on the issue of ecological protection for the Lake, ecological diversity, river transportation after the completion of the Canal, progress of the Canal development and project financing.
After the public consultation, the environmental expert Kamilo Lara said that the ESIA is declaring the environmental feasibility of the construction of the Canal.
In an interview with local media, the president of the Nicaraguan Chamber of Micro, Small and Medium Tourist Enterprise (Cantur), Leonardo Torres said that after listening to the presentations of the ESIA report and the public consultation, he believes the Canal Project is making serious progresses, and has widely taken advices from all sectors of the Nicaraguan society.
“I noted that the ESIA report has been carried out with high sense of responsibility. Nicaragua will become another different country after the Interoceanic Canal is built and our people will benefit from the Canal. The majority of the Nicaraguans support the Project. We should pray to God that this Project will be realized smoothly and Nicaragua will gain vast benefits", Leonardo Torres stated.