A group of scientists are very concerned about the environmental troubles that can be caused by the building of the Nicaragua Canal, a $50 Billion project.
The aim of the ambitious project is to connect the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. The Nicaragua Interoceanic Grand Canal will cut through Lake Nicaragua, known locally as Lake Cocibolca, which is the most important freshwater reservoir of Central America. It is also the largest tropical freshwater lake in the Americas.
The new canal is expected to be complete by the year 2019, and it would be used every year by more than 5,000 ships. The Nigaragua Canal is the second man-made route connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific, after the Panama Canal, which opened 101 years ago.
According to the construction project, more than 30,000 people living in the area will be relocated in order for the canal to be built.
An international team of researchers and experst warned that the project will have a great adverse effect on the ecosystem of the region. The scientists believe incidental or accidental spillage caused by the passing ships could have a negative impact on the lake.
Their studies were published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The research was carried out by 18 institutions across the United States, Central and South America, and it was signed by 21 co-authors.
One of them is Pedro Alvares, an environmental expert at the Rice University in Houston, Texas. He says that species from the Oceans could end up in the lake, leading to the extinction of fish and plants, some of which are only found here.
Also, the dredging operations that have to be carried out in the construction of the canal could be fatal for many marine life forms. Dredging and dispersing sediments lower oxygen levels in the water, the study adds.
Currently, Lake Nicaragua is used for irrigation, power-generation but also for drinking water. If the canal it’s built, the water will not be suitable for irrigation or drinking. Scientists call for the postponement of the project and ask for a deeper analysis of the environmental effects that it could have.
Nicaragua expects to benefit greatly from the canal from an economic standpoint. So far, the country has given a private company based in Hong Kong a 50 year tenure to use the canal.