EspañolHong Kong development firm HKND, contracted to build the colossal Nicaragua Canal, has delivered a Environment and Social Impact Study (EIAS) two years in the making — bringing the controversial US$50 billion project a large step closer towards becoming a reality.
“The goal is to provide an objective, up to date, science-based assessment, including of the process of producing this study, and the possible physical, biological, social, and economic impact of the project,” Manuel Coronel Kautz, chairman of the Grand Canal Authority, told press.
United Kingdom-based company Environmental Resources Management (ERM) authored the study, with the final report filling 14 sizeable volumes. It will now be analyzed for one month by a commission of experts from Nicaragua’s Environment and Natural Resources Ministry.
Telémaco Talavera, spokesman for the Grand Canal Development Commission, said that the government will announce their final decision on the canal’s construction in early July after holding public hearings.
The EIAS contains “a series of conclusions, as well as suggestions, to reduce the social and environmental impact and to develop all of the construction works in order to achieve a highly positive final result,” Talavera explained.
ERM sources clarified that their position is neutral, saying “we are neither for nor against the project.”
“At the study we attempted to determine the challenges that the project could face, but the final decision comes from the Nicaraguan government, along with HKND,” ERM representative Manuel Román said.
The building of the canal has provoked resistance from residents of some of the communities likely to be affected by building works and flooding. Locals have protested against an ongoing expropriation process, which NGOs claim is being carried out by the Nicaraguan government and enforced by Chinese employees of HKND.
The multi-billion-dollar project aims to build a 278 kilometer waterway across Nicaragua, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. HKND estimates the cost of the project to be around US$50 billion, raising doubts on whether the firm could afford such a bill — unless the Chinese government is secretly bankrolling the project.
The Nicaraguan Canal, if completed, will be triple the length of the competing Panama Canal. The building works will require 50,000 workers, and construction is scheduled to be finished by 2019.