Summary: The Nicaraguan government is beginning construction on a new canal that will connect the Pacific to the Caribbean Sea. The indigenous population affected by the canal and scientists who have studied its pros and cons are against it. Officials assert that it will “help ease the dire poverty of the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.” Experts against the project believe that it will irreversably damage the surrounding environment. The locals who would be affected were reportedly not consulted in any way during the planning process. The plan entails digging a 90-foot deep, 1,710 foot wide trench that stretches 170 miles directly through rainforests and the primary source of water: Lake Nicaragua. All of this comes at the low price of $50 billion dollars. The lake in question is only 50 feet deep, and must be dredged to meet the depth needs of the canal. The leftover soil will then be either dumped on land or somewhere else in the lake. 400,000 hectares (hectare=10,000 m^2) of rainforest and wetlands will be directly impacted.
Response: I think it’s crazy that a government can be so focused on creating a potential source of revenue that it ignores its own residents’ well being AND the legitimate concerns of scientists. Salt water will find it’s way into Lake Nicaragua and contaminate the fresh water supply for both people and the creatures that call this place home. The canal will also cut across important water drainage channels, which could cause certain parts of the environment to become too dry, while simultaneously causing other areas to become too wet. We’ve seen similar things happen in the Everglades, indigenous species were wiped out, and natural habitats were destroyed. This was all created from canals dug to transport water. The canal in Nicaragua is being dug for transportation purposes, meaning there will be a much higher chance of some kind of a dangerous chemical spill with an estimated 5,100 ships passing through per year. This canal is also going to be constructed near the Boswanas Biosphere Reserve, a “tropical forest that is the last refuge for many disappearing species.” It is unclear exactly how much the canal will affect this fragile area, but no doubt it is better to err on the side of caution.