Informe Pastran: Take actions and reforest to save the forests
· HKND has a large-scale plan, says Bill Wild, advisor to the Canal Project
If nothing is done today to intervene against the environmental depredation, in ten years Nicaragua could lose all of its forests, warned today by Bill Wild, the Chief Advisor to the Interoceanic Canal Project and the Chinese concessionaire HKND.
In an interview with INFORME PASTRAN, Wild said that "if nothing is done today for the Lake Nicaragua and the forest situation, it will become worse in the coming years" because "Nicaragua undergoes an increasingly accelerated deforestation" and "according to the studies (conducted during the Environmental Impact Assessment by ERM) it exceeds the levels of the last 20 years, with the effects of forest clearing becoming more and more obvious, which include sedimentation in water courses and falling levels in the Lake Nicaragua".
The ERM study warns that "the deforestation is advancing rapidly towards this section of the Project area (Canal)" and that “southeast Nicaragua suffers from rapid loss of forest cover resulting from the intrusion of land use for agriculture and cattle grazing".
"In the last 28 years there has been a 40% reduction in forest cover in Southeast Nicaragua, including the east side of the Caribbean slope," he says, arguing also that "in Nicaragua there is an accelerated rate of forest clearing, with more forests lost in the last two years, between 2009 and 2011, than in the previous 20 years".
Wild is convinced that "if nothing is done soon, in 10 or 20 years, all of the forests will be gone in Southern Nicaragua and the major water bodies (lakes, lagoons and rivers) will be threatened" therefore "by doing nothing the problem will not be solved".
He recalled that the Environmental Impact Assessment conducted by ERM on behalf of HKND is the first large scale environmental study done in Nicaragua, "and the results draw the attention of people to the severe problems they are facing."
The Chief Advisor to the mega-project says that the Canal construction itself will not help solve the problem of environmental degradation in the country, but the remediation and mitigation measures and actions that HKND is considering to take will do, such as a large-scale reforestation in the southern part of Nicaragua.
"This is not a problem that is confined to Nicaragua. Every developing country goes through this issue as forest clearance and in fact, most of the world has this problem, and essentially deforestation is due to lack of financial resources in these countries, because without sufficient resources and better economic conditions people have to clear the forests to survive and the only solution is to improve the economic level, provide enough funding to improve the conditions; this is happening in most parts of the world, and in Nicaragua without the Canal or without enough economic resources, this problem will continue to be there unsolved,” he said.
REFOREST AND RECOVER WATERSHEDS
The State of Nicaragua as such does not have sufficient multi-million dollar resources to reforest the whole country and recover watersheds, but the Interoceanic Canal project could achieve it as part of the impact mitigation and compensation works.
So far those who raise their voices for deforestation are only criticizing, no one has proposed any solution and it is unclear where the resources that are claimed to stop the degradation will come from.
"The project aims to restore forests in the catchments linked to the Canal and to restore forest cover to ensure water supply for the Canal watersheds," says Bill Wild, noting also that "not only to restore what is already damaged but to stop further degradation in Indio Maiz and Punta Gorda Reserves" and "this will help the wildlife in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor".
IT HAD BEEN WARNED
"It is clear that the remaining intact natural areas in southeast Nicaragua, both in and out of the Project area and protected areas are highly vulnerable. Encroachment into these remote areas is already happening without the Project," the Environmental Impact Assessment of HKND indicated last year.
To mitigate and offset these effects of recent years and to pursue the Project´s goal of achieving net positive impact on biodiversity, HKND proposes to reforest about 20,000 hectares of degraded portions of the Punta Gorda and Cerro Silva Natural Reserves in accordance with Nicaragua Decree 79-2006; coordinate with the Government of Nicaragua to fund, establish, restore and actively enforce a new Designated Preservation Area, which would include the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve, Punta Gorda Natural Reserve and parts of Cerro Silva Natural Reserve to preserve the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor and other exceptional biodiversity areas remaining in the southeastern Nicaragua; implement a robust program prohibiting poaching and logging, applicable to both the construction workforce and third parties.
Bill Wild revealed that besides the study that the Australian company CSA Global is doing, they are conducting seismic studies. "We just hired a consultancy firm to conduct a more detailed and more specific seismic study and we also awarded another contract on the study of acid rocks drainage, to know whether water bodies will be affected or not (when carrying out excavations)," he said.
Next month HKND will start a study on underground water table movements at different levels; a survey in the projected Brito Port area on geological details, and bathymetry survey to analyze the levels of the bed of Lake Nicaragua along the Canal route to know the materials and composition of the lake bottom where the canal will pass, besides the study in relation to the locks’ design and salinity impact on the Lake water.