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Xinhua - HKND: Nicaragua Canal Progressing in Compliance with International Best Practices Steadily 2015-10-14 15:54

By:Yong ZHANG

HKND Group, the exclusive concessionaire of Nicaragua Interoceanic Canal, has made another step forward in project development. According to Pang Kwok Wai, Executive Vice President of the company, the Government of Nicaragua held in Managua a total of nine public consultation meetings for the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report of the Nicaragua Interoceanic Canal Project. Senior officials of HKND Group elaborated to the public key findings in the ESIA, conducted by the British environmental consultancy ERM, and addressed public concerns together with delegates from Nicaraguan Government.


Resident representatives participating in public consultation

It is reported that from September 24 to October 1, a series of nine consultation meetings (which in total lasted for 28 hours) were held, attracting around 3,000 participants including representatives from various communities along the Canal route, private entrepreneurs, media, labour unions, scientists, university students, religious groups, youth groups, environmental organizations and NGOs. The public consultation received positive feedbacks. Many people that participated in the consultation meeting expressed their support and expectation of the mega project. After the public consultation, local environmental expert Kamilo Lara said that “the ESIA report demonstrates that the construction of the Canal is environmentally feasible”.


HKND Group senior officials answering questions during public consultation

In the course of public consultation, Pang Kwok Wai, Executive Vice President of HKND Group and Bill Wild, Chief Project Advisor of HKND Group, gave a thorough presentation of the ESIA results and the “Net Positive Impact” demonstrated by ERM that will eventually be realized in the environment and society of Nicaragua after the environmental mitigations are completed. They also answered questions regarding the Canal Project raised by the public as well as by local and international media. 

In terms of environmental impact, Bill stated in the consultation meeting that based on research results, Nicaragua is experiencing a deteriorating biological 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. ERM points out in ESIA report that without proper measures, the current ecological tendency in Nicaragua “is not positive by any measure”. HKND Group agrees on this and considered canal construction as a viable means for environmental protection and forest restoration.

Pang Kwok Wai explained that in consideration of Nicaragua’s environment status quo and engineering requirement of Canal Project, HKND Group has opted for Route 4 that will have relatively less environmental and social impact among the 6 alternatives, and have made several alignment adjustments. The West Lock will move 13 km inland from coastline, protecting the locks from tsunami and other natural disasters while effectively preserving marine biodiversity along Pacific coast, and eliminating the possibility of salinization of Lake Nicaragua. Similarly, the East Lock will also move 20 km inland to ensure maximum protection of the Indio Maíz and Punta Gorda Natural Reserves as well as an absolute safe distance from Mesoamerican Biological Corridor and Booby Cay marine reserve. ERM has confirmed in the ESIA report that if international standards can be met in the course of construction, Route 4 is “the only route with the potential to adequately mitigate or offset its impacts … and achieve a Net Positive Impact”.

In the ESIA report, ERM has affirmed that the Canal Project manages to meet the standards of international best practices in many aspects. As stated by the international consultancy, construction and operation of the Project in a manner consistent with international standards in future “could offer the best future for Nicaragua” and “could provide environmental, social, and economic benefits to the people of Nicaragua”. Preliminary analysis by ERM revealed that the potential impact on Lake Nicaragua has been minimized and the canal design provided by HKND is safe and reliable.

"Any mega infrastructure project will unavoidably have some impacts on the surrounding environment. We believe that the Canal Project will eventually produce a net positive impact, if we take appropriate mitigation and offset measures including massive reforestation programs”, said Pang.

He then said that resonating with local people on the significance of Lake Nicaragua, HKND Group believes that the Canal can not only minimize the risks imposed to the Lake, but can also improve on the existing problems of sedimentation and lowering of water level caused by industrial and social activities along the shoreline. In respect of salinity intrusion in Lake Nicaragua, the issue in the public limelight, Pang explained that drawing on the world’s leading lock design experience, with the implementation of three-step ship lock structure and chamber flushing technologies as well as other modern preventive measures, the possibility of water salinization within Lake Nicaragua will be very remote.    


Members from youth groups participating in public consultation

Resettlement is a repeatedly raised issue during public consultation. HKND Group has committed to create better living conditions for the people being affected. As stated by Pang, the census conducted by Changjiang Institute of Survey, Planning, Design and Research revealed that no more than 6,800 households will be affected by the Canal Project, among which about 27,000 residents need to be relocated. Based on the information provided by HKND Group, the Government of Nicaragua has designed 3 types of resettlement housing in order to accommodate the needs of different families.

Pang further stated that, according to the regulations of International Finance Corporation (IFC), ESIA report of major infrastructure project shall go through at least seven public consultation meetings before approved by the government. Thanks to the nine public consultation meetings for the Nicaragua Canal Project in compliance with international best practices, people of Nicaragua were able to learn about this world-class ESIA report; the public were also given the chance to raise their concerns and offer suggestions, as well as to communicate directly with the representatives of the project and the government.

It is understood that all the opinions collected in the consultation meetings will serve as a basis for the government’s approval of ESIA report.

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Original link: http://news.xinhuanet.com/gangao/2015-10/12/c_128309731.htm