An international consortium of environmental scientists has expressed strong concern about the impact of a controversial Central American canal across Nicaragua.
The leading researchers from 18 institutions in the United States and Central and South America -- have voiced their opposition to the Nicaragua Interoceanic
Grand Canal and the haste with which the project has been initiated, reports UPI.
The path of the Nicaragua Interoceanic Grand Canal to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans will cut through Lake Cocibolca (aka Lake Nicaragua), Central America's main freshwater reservoir and the largest tropical freshwater lake of the Americas
The Hong Kong-based HKND Group announced it had begun construction on the Nicaragua Interoceanic Grand Canal in Rivas, Nicaragua, despite controversy and criticism surrounding the project.
The scientists say the rush to construct the canal, which developers hope will connect the Caribbean Sea (and the Atlantic Ocean) with the Pacific, is putting the ecological health of Lake Cocibolca at risk.
The Canal plan will force the relocation of indigenous populations and impact a fragile ecosystem, including species at risk of extinction, they warn.
The canal will intersect the lake, which serves as the main freshwater reservoir for Central America. Lake Cocibolca, also called Lake Nicaragua, is the largest freshwater body in Central America and the ninth largest in the Americas.
"The biggest environmental challenge is to build and operate the canal without catastrophic impacts to this sensitive ecosystem," said environmental engineer Pedro Alvarez of the Rice University.
The canal project is expected to be completed by 2019 and create a new shipping route via Nicaragua. Once constructed, around 5,100 ships are estimated to pass the canal each year. It would stretch about 180 miles across the country.
Around 30,000 people in the region will have to be re-allocated to carve out the route for the canal's construction.