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Lake Nicaragua In For Dramatic Change With Construction of Massive New Canal, Environmentalists Worry


A group of Hong Kong businesses have the go-ahead to start construction on a massive canal in Nicaragua to open a shipping route, but at a certain environmental cost.

According to CNN, the Nicaraguan government granted the business collective known as the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Company (HKND) its $50 billion canal in 2013. After a Dec. ceremony to announce construction, the canal is expected to cut right into Lake Nicaragua.

The lake is the largest in the country and the canal's two entry points are currently mapped at Brito (the Pacific coast) and Rio Punta Gorda (the Caribbean coast), CNN reported. HKND plans for the Nicaraguan Canal to be 1,700 feet wide and 90 feet deep, which would surpass the Panama Canal.

"In terms of the canal impact on Lake Nicaragua, one big concern is the damage to the quality of the water; the ship traffic will pollute the water with toxic sediments and industrial chemicals and introduce destructive invasive species, plants and animals," Dr. Jorge A. Huete-Perez, vice president of the Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences and director of the Molecular Biology Center at the University of Central America, told CNN. "Dredging of the lake for the construction of the canal will render the lake a 'dead zone' because of hypoxia, eutrophication and turbidity."

Moreover, about 30,000 people would be displaced to make way for the canal, which may cause more environmental trouble than help. Huete-Perez also told CNN he was concerned about a lack of transparency from HKND.

"From July 21 to July 30, 2014, we and our environmental and social impact advisor, Environmental Resources Management (ERM), held scoping meetings across Nicaragua. Approximately 5,000 people participated in the scoping meetings, including housewives, students, professionals, agricultural producers, fishermen, artisans, businessmen and scholars," the consortium said in a statement.

But the canal's critics still worry that the project, estimated to be finished in 2019, will be dropped along the way and will leave environmental damage and displaced families behind for nothing.

(The previously used featured image was not of Lake Nicaragua. It was an image of Laguna de Apoyo in Nicaragua, taken by the Flickr user: Brian Johnson & Dane Kantner and posted on website's Creative Commons).

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