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June 21, 2015

Scientists concerned over environmental impact of Nicaragua shipping canal

Scientists claim that the environmental assessment on the proposed trans-isthmus shipping canal in Nicaragua does not adequately measure the potential impacts of the project.

By Samseer M

Scientists claim that the environmental assessment on the proposed trans-isthmus shipping canal in Nicaragua does not adequately measure the potential impacts of the project.

A group of international scientists have raised concerns after reviewing excerpts of the environmental impact assessment commissioned as part of the planning process for the canal.

The proposed project, which aims to expand the Panama Canal in both size and capacity, would be built by the Nicaraguan Government, along with the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Company (HKND).

"Massive ecological change would likely occur in Nicaragua, if canal construction proceeds."

As part of the project planning, HKND hired consultant firm Environmental Resources Management (ERM) to conduct the project assessment; however, scientists found problems with the report, citing insufficient data collection on water quality, geology, sediments, species, erosion, and fisheries.

FIU Southeast Environmental Research Center director Todd Crowl said: "For a project of this magnitude with so much at stake, it seems that very careful and thorough consideration is a must.

"The timeframe was simply too short to fully understand the potential ramifications and likely outcome."

According to the scientist, 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.

Data was scarce on water quality, flow, and currents for a canal passing through Lake Nicaragua, which is Central America’s largest source of freshwater.

Scientists have warned that massive ecological change would likely occur in Nicaragua, if canal construction proceeds.

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