Critical Uncertainties and Gaps in the Environmental- and Social-Impact Assessment of the Proposed Interoceanic Canal through Nicaragua


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Abstract

The proposed interoceanic canal will connect the Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean, traversing Lake Nicaragua, the major freshwater reservoir in Central America. If completed, the canal would be the largest infrastructure-related excavation project on Earth. In November 2015, the Nicaraguan government approved an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) for the canal. A group of international experts participated in a workshop organized by the Academy of Sciences of Nicaragua to review this ESIA. The group concluded that the ESIA does not meet international standards; essential information is lacking regarding the potential impacts on the lake, freshwater and marine environments, and biodiversity. The ESIA presents an inadequate assessment of natural hazards and socioeconomic disruptions. The panel recommends that work on the canal project be suspended until an appropriate ESIA is completed. The project should be resumed only if it is demonstrated to be economically feasible, environmentally acceptable, and socially beneficial.

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