Mega-canal project could devastate Nicaragua's ecology

It'd be like watching a slow-motion train wreck.  That's one's impression when reading about the plan to build a vast mega-canal linking the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans across Nicaragua.

  Like the Panama Canal only bigger... (photo by William Laurance)

Like the Panama Canal only bigger... (photo by William Laurance)

A German ecologist who has long worked in Nicaragua, Axel Meyer, writes to ALERT with a copy of his recent commentary in Nature, highlighting the myriad risks of this proposed $40 billion project.

The project's risks, which would involve not just a 300 kilometer-long waterway but also major associated infrastructure including railroads and pipelines, are enormous.  Just as the Panama Canal and associated developments have cut a swathe of forest destruction across Panama, so too would the mega-canal carve up Nicaragua.

Among the project's likely impacts:

-the destruction of 400,000 square kilometers of rainforest and wetland

-major environmental impacts on Lake Nicaragua, which harbors many endemic fish species

-potentially major degradation of the MesoAmerican Biological Corridor, the vital ecological linkage between the Americas that runs directly across the canal's path

-large effects on several indigenous groups in Nicaragua

  Deforestation driver... in the Panama Canal watershed, all but 15% of the original forest has vanished (photo by William Laurance)

Deforestation driver... in the Panama Canal watershed, all but 15% of the original forest has vanished (photo by William Laurance)

Astoundingly, the only environmental assessment that is planned will be commissioned by the Chinese corporation that's been awarded a 50-year concession to build and run the canal.

A coalition of local groups in Nicaragua, led by the president of the Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences, is raising serious concerns about the project. 

If they fail, expect to hear thunderous crashing sounds as the mega-project advances...