IANAS Capacity Building
International Workshop to Identify Major Scientific and Technical Questions Associated with the Interoceanic Canal Project through Nicaragua
Managua, November 10-12, 2014 IANAS-ICSU ROLAC-Nactional Academy of Sciences of Nicaragua
Introduction. In June 2013, the Nicaraguan government approved a law granting a 100-year concession to a Chinese company, Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Ltd. (HKND), to build and operate an interoceanic canal, oil pipeline, railroad, deepwater ports, airports and free-trade zones in Nicaragua. Construction is scheduled to begin in December of 2014.
This project would arguably be the most ambitious infrastructure undertaking in Latin American history, with an estimated cost is in excess of US$40 billion. The government is hopeful that the interoceanic canal and sub-projects will bring some economic relief the nation. However, the construction and/or operation of the canal might also result in significant unintended impacts that should be proactively considered.
The Academy of Sciences of Nicaragua (ACN) has prioritized the need to urgently discern significant scientific and technical questions associated with the comprehensive canal project. Construction of the post Panamax canal and subprojects without stringent, independent impact assessments could pose a significant threat to rain forests, the largest fresh water lake in Central America (Lake Cocibolca) and local indigenous groups. The canal will cut through fragile and endangered ecosystems, including biodiversity reserves, migration corridors and autonomous indigenous lands; and will pass in close proximity to the twin volcanoes of Ometepe island, designated a UNESCO Biosphere. In the Caribbean, major concerns include potential impact to the Punta Gorda Nature Reserve, coastal marine life and local indigenous communities. Nicaragua’s Pacific coast harbors sensitive coral reefs and endangered sea turtle nesting sites.
The Academy’s mission is to inform Nicaraguan society on critical issues relating to science and technology. During the first half of 2014, the ACN organized a series of fora to provide scientific and technical data regarding the canal. National experts addressed economic, legal, social and environmental concerns. Proceedings were published as: “The Interoceanic Canal through Nicaragua. Experts contributions for national debate”.
The Academy has also called for an independent, external evaluation of the canal project and has appealed to the global scientific community to aid in identifying potential risks and consequences. As a first step, the Academy requested help from the InterAmerican Network of Academies of Sciences, IANAS, and the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean of the International Council for Science (ICSU ROLAC) to organize an International Workshop with experts in pertinent fields, to address critical issues related to this HKND project.
International Workshop. The International Workshop will discern the main scientific and technical questions associated with the construction of the trans-oceanic canal through Nicaragua. The workshop will include 10-12 international experts drawn from biodiversity and conservation, marine biology, lake ecosystems, engineering, hydraulics, water resources management and other relevant disciplines. Participants will attend in their personal capacity as world experts. The meeting will be held in Managua during the week of November 10, 2014 and co-chaired by Prof. Pedro J. Alvarez (Academy of Sciences of Nicaragua) and Prof. Hernan Chaimovich (Brasilian Academy of Sciences). Discussions will be conducted in English with simultaneous Spanish translation when needed.
This Workshop will provide an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with world experts, representatives from the Academy of Sciences of Nicaragua, the Nicaraguan government and non-governmental organizations involved in conservation activities worldwide. Proceedings and results will be published in print and online for the general public, and for use in future independent impact assessments.