Prensa Latina - Nicaragua: steps of the Interoceanic Canal project
By: Lianet Arias Sosa (Nicaragua's correspondent of Prensa Latina)
Managua, 04 Oct (PL) The project of an interoceanic canal through Nicaragua, which will bring a net positive impact, continues to take qualified, responsible and serious steps towards its achievement.
The waterway, which expects to bring large benefits to this Central American country, will connect the Atlantic and the Pacific with a route of 276 kilometres, of which 105 km will cross the Lake Cocibolca or Nicaragua.
On the economic side, experts predict that the initiative, with a total cost of 50 billion dollars, it will double this nation's GDP and generate about 250,000 jobs, both directly and indirectly.
The benefits of the project, which also involves the construction of an airport, several roads, a free trade zone, tourist resorts and two ports, will also be felt in Latin America.
The attraction of Canal is obvious in this aspect, but how about other key areas, such as social and environmental?
The answer comes from the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the interoceanic waterway, whose conclusions and recommendations were disclosed to various Nicaraguan sectors in the first public consultation.
In a recent conversation with Prensa Latina, the Chief Project Advisor of the company, HKND Group, Bill Wild, referred to the study and he assured that the firm Environmental Resources Management (ERM) highlights that the construction of the Canal is possible.
We have never hidden or denied that a work of this magnitude will have negative impacts, the specialist said, but he emphasized that the investigation submitted to the Government last May, concluded that the project can actually realize a “Net Positive Impact”.
Referring to the total affected people by the future construction of the project, Wild said that about 6,800 families (around 27,000 people) would have to be relocated, among which only 25 households are native indigenous.
The residents to be relocated will have the option to receive monetary compensation or new housing, always with better housing conditions than before, said the Chief Advisor, who reiterated that this is a commitment of HKND.
He also recalled that one of the reasons that they chose the current route (number 4) for the interoceanic canal is that there is a lower concentration of population along this route.
Also, after a rigorous comparison of the six main alternative routes -according to the studies- it is considered that the selected one has the potential to mitigate or compensate the adverse impacts, and meet international standards properly.
Keys of Environmental Issue
Regarding to another key topic, the environmental issue, specialized forecasts say that without the Canal, the increasing rate of forest degradation in these areas will lead to the loss of most of the forests within a period of 10 to 15 years.
However, HKND holds that with the construction of the route, people will have better economic conditions and it won't be necessary for them to slash the forests for subsistence farming as their livelihood.
Most of the forests at East area are almost gone. While the map of the reserves is very impressive, they only exist on paper, considered Wild, referring to Indio Maiz as the only intact forest, which has not been impacted by human activity.
As part of the benefits for the country, he explained that human encroachment into Indio Maiz and Punta Gorda will be prevented, "making the Canal as a barrier for those reserves", and the company will finance reforestation projects in the area known as biological corridor, among other places.
The company also intends to implement actions for the recovery of the San Miguelito wetlands, in the southern department of Rio San Juan.
About the crucial element of Lake Cocibolca, HKND Group said that they are fully aware of the problems of the Lake and people's concern about the impact on it, but they believe that it is possible to manage all the risks successfully.
Among the measures to mitigate environmental damages, the fact that water from the Lake won't be used stands out. Instead, they will build a new dam -the Atlanta Lake- which will serve as a water reservoir for the Interoceanic waterway.
About the concern of salinization and sedimentation, the Executive Vice President of the company, Pang Kwok Wai, precisely said in the first public consultation that regarding the water issue, there is no danger, because the project's design has taken into consideration these aspects.
He even said that, building this megaproject would help to reverse the damage that has been already made to Lake Cocibolca due to human actions.
After the environmental assessment and with all the recommended measures, we are very satisfied, said Wild to Prensa Latina, recalling that ERM stated in the document that if the project manages to implement all these issues, it will have a positive outcome.
Meanwhile, the Government of Nicaragua has highlighted how the project is moving forward in different phases.
We would like to emphasize the seriousness and responsibility, with which every stage of the project is being developed, to start the construction of the Grand Canal in the reasonable established period of time, said the coordinator of the Communication and Citizenship Council, Rosario Murillo.
Before the final design of the canal, the concessionaire will carry on other studies, such as sediment and bathymetry of the Lake Cocibolca, archaeological investigation, topographical survey and evaluation of geotechnical and seismic risk.
The analysis will continue, but with the certainty, -according to the conclusions of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment- that the Canal project offers potential benefits for the environment and the people of this Central American country.