The Government of Nicaragua has approved the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the Nicaragua Interoceanic Grand Canal Project.
The government signed an agreement with Chinese firm Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment (HKND Group) to build a shipping channel across Nicaragua that would act as an alternative to Panama Canal.
The ESIA was submitted to the Government of Nicaragua in May this year.
The report covers a wide range of scientific disciplines including geology, soil, groundwater, surface water, air, noise, vibration, marine / freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems, as well as social resources, community health, cultural heritage, local economy and employment.
Valued at $50bn, the proposed project aims to expand the Panama Canal in both size and capacity and would be built by the Nicaraguan Government, along with the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Company (HKND).
Additionally, nine public consultation meetings were held for the project.
Canal Commission spokesman Telemaco Talavera said: "This is a project that will bring significant economic, social and environmental benefits."
In June a group of international scientists raised concerns over the environmental impact assessment alleging that the data provided on biodiversity was limited to the canal’s 278km-long footprint and the draft presented insufficient information on the geology of the planned canal.
The 209km waterway would connect the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and is expected to take 11 years to complete, generating around 40,000 construction jobs.
HKND Group chief project advisor Bill Wild said: "The ESIA process has been exhaustive and we spent longer completing it than we original envisaged, because we listened to the input we received about the design and made various changes that have improved it.
"We’re really pleased that the project can now move forward with full speed and with the sincere support from many sectors of the country."
HKND Group’s concession is expected to be extended for another 50 years once the canal is operational and the Nicaraguan Government would get a minority share of the profits generated by the canal.
Image: HKND Group receiving the environmental permit delivered by the Executive Secretary of the Canal Commission. Photo: courtesy of HKND Group.