Scientists question Nicaraguan canal in newly released report

June 19, 2015 by Joann C. Adkins, Florida International University
Credit: Source: BBC, Graphc: Erik Rodriguez

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 scientists' report is available for download in English and Spanish.

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 report was conducted by Environmental Resources Management (ERM), a consultant firm hired by HKND. The scientists convened at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, Fla. in the spring of 2015 to review excerpts of the commissioned as part of the planning process for the canal.

In their report, the scientists determined the ERM assessment does not adequately measure the potential impacts of the project, noting insufficient data collection on 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 timeframe 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."

The spring workshop included ecology, conservation and water law experts from FIU and other U.S. and international universities, as well as scientists from the United States Geological Survey, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, Fauna & Flora International, Wildlife Conservation Society and Paso Pacifico in Nicaragua.

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.

"Its massive social, economic and environmental impacts will be suffered by Nicaragua and its neighboring countries, and it seems, with the little information available, that those impacts have not been properly assessed," said Henry Briceño, geologist and water quality expert at SERC, who participated in the workshop.  

The scientists conclude massive ecological change would likely occur in Nicaragua if construction of the canal proceeds. To date, the 14-volume environmental assessment by ERM has not been released to the public.

Explore further: Thousands in Nicaragua protest Chinese canal plan

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Officials said Thursday that studies have determined a $40 billion inter-oceanic canal across Nicaragua will have minimal impact on the environment and society, and construction is to begin next month.

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1 / 5 (2) Jun 19, 2015
Interesting ways how US University has been enticed to do report on foreign project. US government grant money? I guest distinguished scientists from Shanghai and HK have reached diametrically opposite conclusions. I enjoy beauty of "science" when scientific truths are determined by affiliation and/or paychecks.

I love mathematics where 2+2=4 in Washington DC as well as in Shanghai. It is profound discovery I alone take credit for.
3 / 5 (2) Jun 19, 2015
Sepp Blatter style of contract award making.
not rated yet Jun 19, 2015
Interesting ways how US University has been enticed to do report on foreign project. US government grant money?

Well... that's just wrong. This project would be massively beneficial to the US, far moreso than to any other country. In fact, the whole reason for this project is to help companies reach markets in the US, and to help US companies have a more direct shipping route to other countries.

Also, unlike in China (where all research is government controlled), only a portion of research in the US suffers from strong control by the federal government. Most of the rest is controlled by corporations. That isn't a good thing, but often the interests of those corporations do line up with those of the government.

So it is *very* wrong to claim that most research in the US is controlled or even influenced by the federal government. In fact, it is exactly the opposite of that.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 21, 2015
Come on now...why do they focus on "environment" when the real problem is a project that never works.

Probably because they are more interested in then environment instead of people.

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