Sunday, January 11, 2015

Canal could turn Lake Nicaragua into ‘dead zone’

Paula Leighton in The Interoceanic Canal that will run through Lake Nicaragua could kill life in the vast lake and have other serious effects on the country’s environment and economy unless safeguards are put in place, an independent international panel of experts has warned.

Scientists from the InterAmerican Network of Academies of Science joined biodiversity, engineering and hydrology experts from the Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences (CAN) and the International Council for Science (ICSU) to warn that the project must minimise “unintended adverse consequences” that could do economic, environmental and social harm.

Because of a lack of publicly available information from the Nicaraguan government and HKND, the Chinese firm building the canal, the panel sought to identify “the main technical and scientific questions” in order to “contribute to a public and transparent debate”, Jorge Huete-Pérez, CAN vice-president, tells SciDev.Net.

The water in Lake Nicaragua, Central America’s largest lake, is currently suitable for drinking, irrigation and “other ecosystem services essential to Nicaragua’s economy”. The lake is particularly vulnerable because it is shallow, with an average depth of 12.5 metres, and is exposed to wind action that encourages sediment to be brought back into suspension

Canal construction, which began last month, will require the lake to be dredged to a depth of 30 metres for 105 kilometres. Together with ongoing maintenance and traffic, it will considerably lower water quality and may impair the lake’s usefulness, says the summary document of a workshop on scientific and technical issues associated with the canal, held in Managua, Nicaragua, on 10-11 November....

An 1870 map of an earlier attempt at a canal across Nicaragua. Created by Julius Bien and Company, it is titled Panoramic View of the Nicaragua Canal

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