The Academy of Sciences of Nicaragua invited the InterAmerican Network of Academies of Science (IANAS) and the International Council for Science – Regional Office for Latin American and the Caribbean (ICSU-LAC) to co-sponsor an international workshop to explore the crucial scientific and technical issues associated with the proposed interoceanic canal through Nicaragua.
Participating in this workshop were 15 international scientists, all as well as numerous Nicaraguan researchers and scientists, all of whom are world renowned specialists in the many pertinent disciplines, including: biodiversity, conservation, marine biology, limnology and lacustrine ecosystems, civil and environmental engineering, hydrology and hydraulics, public policy, water resource management, water quality, economics, national and international security, and risk assessment. These experts were selected by IANAS after a careful review of their track record and demonstrated excellence in their field.
The main objective was to identify and discuss the principle technical and scientific questions surrounding the Interoceanic Canal Project and the subprojects, in order to contribute to a public, transparent, and well-informed debate on the matter.
The expert panel congratulates the Academy of Sciences of Nicaragua for the important role it is playing in promoting science as an instrument of sustainable development. Especially valuable are the Academy’s efforts to share in the important task of providing accurate and timely scientifically based information to the decision makers and the Nicaraguan public on this mega-project with multiple ramifications. We encourage the Academy of Sciences of Nicaragua to continue this work and to seek complementary collaboration and support from other international organizations in their monitoring efforts. These include all of us and the organizations we represent, such as IANAS, who are willing to continue providing scientific and technical expertise.
The panel recognizes the significant uncertainties and risks associated with the potential benefits, costs, and impacts of this megaproject. Thus, the panel encourages adoption of international best practices for the evaluation of megaprojects. These practices include broad and transparent communication with multiple stakeholders to identify opportunities to optimize benefits and to minimize unintended adverse consequences, as well as independent analysis and evaluation of the studies pertaining to technical, feasibility, and environmental impacts.
The panel consolidated its discussions around three general topics: Water and Sediments, Biodiversity, and Economic and Social Issues. The significance of these issues is multidimensional.
Water and sediments are important because Lake Nicaragua is one of the most important tropical lakes in the world with large value, ecologically, environmentally, and economically; all of these attributes could be impacted by a transoceanic canal of this scale and magnitude.
Protecting Nicaragua’s natural resources, ecosystems, rich biodiversity and cultural heritage is important for the long term viability and sustainability of Nicaragua’s economic development.
A nation’s biodiversity is a component of its natural capital, the loss of which is irreparable. A project on the scale of the interoceanic canal can cause direct and indirect impacts on biodiversity, which must be anticipated, monitored and mitigated, before, during and following the construction of the canal.
The proposed canal and sub-projects will provide no economic benefit to the nation if the project ultimately proves to be economically unfeasible. It would be of great relevance to the nation to have in hand an exhaustive cost-benefits analysis, as well as an analysis of the effect on national development, and an analysis of human rights, legal and national security issues.
The panel has identified a number of critically important scientific and technical questions raised by the proposed interoceanic canal and the sub-projects:
• (Presentation on Water Quality)
• (Presentation on Biodiversity)
• (Presentation on Economic and Social Issues)