A group of international scientists have released their findings about a proposed trans-isthmus shipping canal in Nicaragua, raising concerns about environmental impact and lack of information.
The mega project would be built by the Nicaraguan government with the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Company (HKND) and would exceed the Panama Canal in both size and capacity.
The environmental assessment report was conducted by Environmental Resources Management (ERM), a consultant firm hired by HKND.
In their report, the scientists at Florida International University (FIU) determined the ERM assessment does not adequately measure the potential impacts of the project, noting insufficient data collection on water quality, geology, sediments, species, erosion, and fisheries.
The scientists also note the time period in which the study was conducted, two years, is a shorter time frame than what is needed to adequately evaluate long-term impacts of such a large-scale infrastructure project.
“For a project of this magnitude with so much at stake, it seems that very careful and thorough consideration is a must,” said Todd Crowl, workshop participant and director of FIU’s Southeast Environmental Research Center. “The time frame was simply too short to fully understand the potential ramifications and likely outcome.”
A key concern is available water for the project. Silty sediments would be dredged in Lake Nicaragua for large shipping channels and water from the lake would be used to operate the canal’s locks. Because of Nicaragua’s strongly seasonal climate, which is subject to extreme events including drought and hurricanes, the scientists question the projected availability of water supplies.
Overall, the scientists address 15 areas of environmental concern in the report, including deforestation, the lack of long-term climate forecasts, and likely impacts on endangered plants and animals.