Thousands of Nicaraguans held a protest in Juigalpa on Saturday, the latest in dozens of protests staged within the past year, against the planned construction of a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the BBC reported.
The $50 billion waterway will be longer, deeper and wider than the Panama Canal and is expected to displace between 30,000 and 120,000 people that live along the canal’s future route according to various estimates.
The protesters, primarily farmers from local villages the construction will affect, worry that the construction will have a major environmental impact and displace them from their land.
The groundbreaking ceremony in Managua was held in December, and the private Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development (HKCD) Group is expected to complete the project in five years.
The HKCD, controlled by Wang Jing, a Chinese telecom mogul, was granted a 50-year concession to manage the project, with a possible extension of another 50 years upon completion, Sputnik reported.
A canal official announced on June 1 that the long-awaited 14-volume study on the social and environmental impact of the canal by a British consultancy was delivered.
Telemaco Talavera, spokesman of the government canal commission, said the study by Environmental Resources Management Ltd (ERM) will be discussed by an interinstitutional commission in June, before being voted on by the canal commission in July, Reuters reported.
“In summary, ERM says that the project offers potential benefits for the environment and the people of Nicaragua,” Talavera told state media, while not elaborating any further.
Manuel Roman, ERM spokesman, said on state media that the company was not for or against the project, adding that the study provided the Nicaraguan government and HKND with information on potential challenges so they could decide on how to proceed.
Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera said Costa Rica had asked Nicaragua how the country planned to prevent sedimentation of the San Juan river - whose southern bank is Costa Rican territory - while dredging Lake Nicaragua to almost twice its current depth.
“The only thing we want is information on possible environmental impacts on Costa Rica, and other than that we wish them well,” Solis said on June 9 in a news conference in Geneva.
Circle of Blue, a network of journalists and scientists reporting on water and its relationships to food, energy, and health, obtained an 11-page evaluation of the four chapters of the report by 15 environmental scientists and project experts invited by ERM to Miami.
According to the evaluation - based on four chapters of the report - panel members concluded that ERM’s environmental study is rife with significant flaws.
The panel called the scope and depth of ERM’s study as “insufficient given the magnitude of the proposed projects associated with the canal construction.”
“It seemed to me that the environmental impact assessment process was to create the illusion of science,” one of the panel’s scientists, Michael T. Brett, told Circle of Blue.