Developers of Nicaragua Canal move forward as scientists show concern

The Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Co. (HKND Group) said this week it started an “aerial survey along the proposed canal route” planned by the Chinese group and the Nicaraguan government as a bigger alternative to the Panama Canal.

“The survey will cover the (172.5-mile) canal corridor connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific and a (1.25 mile)-wide circumference of Lake Nicaragua, with a total flight distance of approximately (11,180 miles),” according to information sent to Latin Business Daily by Liliana Li, a group spokeswoman.

“The survey is a major step in the construction development process and supports pre-works planning, design and engineering for the canal and infrastructure,” the statement added.

Two aircraft will be used for the survey and will use technologies capable of penetrating the dense forests and detect the actual topography and surface water, it said. HKDN will also be able to generate mapping of sections of Lake Nicaragua.

“The Nicaragua Interoceanic Grand Canal project is of international significance and has the potential to economically transform Nicaragua and the region”, said Jeff Elliot, managing director of CSA Global of Australia, which is the company in charge of the aerial survey.

Most of the final results of the data collection phase will be delivered to HKND by March 2016, according to the statement.

The survey will assess geological risks -- such as seismic activity, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, landslides, slope stability and liquefaction -- and “will be a valuable asset to the country,” said Kwok Wai Pang, executive vice president of HKND Group, said in the statement. “Commencement of such a high-standard aerial survey serves as clear evidence that the Nicaragua Canal Project is progressing steadily.".

The group spokeswoman did not reply to requests by Latin Business Daily to interview a group official to get more information about this project.

A group of international scientists this year raised concerns about the environmental impact from the joint trans-isthmus project of the Nicaraguan government and HKND.

“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,” a June statement from Florida International University in Miami said. The university hosted a meeting of experts this year to discuss the project´s impact.

“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,” it said. The scientists had also shown concern that too little information has been release on environmental studies. There have been protests in Nicaragua demanding that the environmental impact studies related to the project be disclosed.

According to press information from Nicaragua, the canal's estimated cost is $50 billion and construction is expected to be completed by 2019. 

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