Nicaragua OKs canal’s impact studies, clearing way for construction
The state-run Nicaraguan Grand Interoceanic Canal Commission on Thursday approved Chinese concession holder HKND Group’s environmental and social impact studies for that waterway project, clearing the way for construction to begin.
“We’re authorizing HKND now to begin the design, structural and construction processes,” the commission’s president, Manuel Coronel Kautz, said during a ceremony in which the decision was announced.
The resolution was approved because HKND pledged to comply with 48 environmental, social and economic requirements, including agreeing to additional, highly scientifically rigorous studies, the commission’s spokesman, Telemaco Talavera, said.
“We’re very pleased to see that the project will now be able to rapidly proceed,” HKND’s chief project adviser, Australia’s Bill Wild, said after learning of the commission’s resolution.
The project entails construction of an interoceanic waterway that will be 276 kilometers (171 miles) long, up to 520 meters (1,700 feet) wide and 30 meters (98 feet) deep, link Nicaragua’s Pacific and Caribbean (Atlantic) coasts and serve as a rival to the Panama Canal.
Related sub-projects will include roads, an airport, two deep-water ports, a free-trade zone and a tourist complex.
The environmental impact of the project is one of the top concerns in the impoverished Central American nation.
In that regard, the commission’s ecologist, Kamilo Lara, said he was convinced the project would “restore the environmental damage we Nicaraguans have systematically caused.”
Although the canal’s construction stage was officially inaugurated in December 2014, Talavera said in recent days that that phase would begin in 2016 and take five years to complete.
Nicaragua’s government expects the $50 billion project will double the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) and create 50,000 direct jobs during the construction stage.
The waterway is to wind from the Pacific coastal town of Brito to the mouth of the Punta Gorda River on Nicaragua’s Atlantic shore.
A significant portion of the canal route – 105 kilometers – will run through Lake Nicaragua.
HKND has a 50-year concession to build and operate the canal and is to obtain the financing for the project. EFE