Nicaragua: Social, environmental concerns associated with Chinese firm HKND Group's major canal project


The Interoceanic Canal, concessioned to the Chinese Company HKND Group [Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development] is a $50 billion project.  The canal, which will be approximately 278km long and would reportedly pass through 282 communities' lands, has led to concerns by indigenous communities, environmentalists, and other parts of Nicaraguan society. These groups are concerned about potential environmental impacts, displacement, lack of transparency and other human rights abuses.  Protesters have reportedly faced harassment and repression. 

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited HKND Group to respond to these concerns.  Response provided below.

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15 June 2015

Nicaragua: 15,000 farmers march against canal project to defend land rights

Author: Global Construction Review (UK)

"Thousands protest canal in Nicaragua over land issue", 15 Jun 2015

Carrying signs accusing Nicaragua’s president Daniel Ortega of being a “sellout” and saying “Out with the Chinese”, the protesters, mostly farmers, marched in the central Nicaraguan city of Juigalpa, which is not on the proposed canal route...[T]he protesters were angry about a provision in the country’s canal law that compels residents along the route to sell their land to Hong Kong-based company HKND at whatever price the company offers. In 2013 the Nicaraguan government gave HKND the concession to build and operate the canal, which would link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and rival the Panama Canal...[O]pposition to the canal is growing because of what he called the government’s secrecy over the project, and that the state’s suppression of protests has resulted in “militarised” zones along the canal route. Huete-Pérez [vice president of the Academy of Sciences for Nicaragua] and others have called for an environmental impact assessment, conducted by UK consultancy be made public...[A] panel of independent scientists levelled harsh criticisms against the environmental impact study...The study will be discussed by an “inter-institutional commission”...

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15 June 2015

Environmental assessment of Nicaragua Canal comes under fire, while HKND & ERM defend safety & feasibility of project

Author: Keith Schneider, Circle of Blue

"Nicaragua Canal's environmental assessment comes under fire", 16th June 2015

...[I]n a made-for-television press event, a copy of the 14-volume Environmental and Social Impact Assessment of the proposed Nicaragua Canal was displayed on a small table for news photographers...ERM and HKND executives joined government authorities in asserting that the canal construction is safe and feasible...In an 11-page evaluation...the panel’s members concluded this spring that ERM’s environmental study is rife with significant flaws...At various points in their report, the panel castigated ERM for what they called “indefensible,” “implausible,” “wrong,” and “not realistic” scientific conclusions...

When asked about that concern, David Blaha, a principal partner at London-based ERM, emailed this response to Circle of Blue: “As you may know, ERM sponsored the expert panel. We did not need to do this but we believed a project of this magnitude deserved this level of review. ERM was very appreciative of the comments we received from the panel and we responded to all of their comments in the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA). We believe the ESIA is a robust document and objectively evaluates the effects of the project. I encourage you to review the ESIA (or at least the executive summary), once it is available, before reaching any conclusions about the document.”...In [another] response, ERM generally agreed with the weaknesses in the work that the panel illustrated and said that some analysis had been reworked...In most cases, said ERM, the tight two-year deadline for completing the assessment for HKND meant its researchers often did not have sufficient time to conduct more thorough data gathering...

The Nicaraguan government has not made the ERM study public, nor has it indicated when it will do so. Panel members said it is imperative that the 14-volume study be available for public review... [see an earlier response from HKND on the planned Nicaragua Canal project]

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Author: 基思•施耐德, 蓝色圆圈

"尼加拉瓜运河项目环评报告遭抨击", 2015年6月16日





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Author: 基思•施耐德, 藍色圓圈

"尼加拉瓜運河項目環評報告遭抨擊", 2015年6月16日


總部位於倫敦的ERM主要合夥人在郵件中這樣回應道:“如您所知,此次的專家組評審活動其實是由ERM發起的。我們本不需要這樣做,但我們相信這樣龐大的一項工程是需要進行這樣深層次的研究。ERM很感謝專家組提出的意見,我們在《環境與社會影響評估報告》​​(環評報告)中也就這些問題進行了一一解答。我們認為環評報告內容嚴謹,客觀地評估了運河項目將會帶來的影響。希望貴方在閱讀環評報告(或是執行摘要部分)之前不要先下結論。”... 在[另一]份回應中,ERM承認在研究中確實存在著專家組指出的工作疏漏,並稱ERM已經對部分分析結果進行了修訂... ERM稱,由於HKND要求其在兩年之內完成環評報告,因此在很多情況下,研究人員沒有足夠的時間來進行充分的數據採集...

尼加拉瓜政府並沒有披露ERM的環評報告,目前看來也沒有意願公開這份文件。然而專家組卻建議政府向大眾公開這份長達14卷的環評報告...[參見HKND早前提供的回應 ]

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31 August 2015

Nicaragua: Inter-American Human Rights Commission to investigate claims of human rights abuses of ethnic groups for construction of canal

Author: Emily Liedel,

"The Rama community's efforts offer a glimmer of hope for opponents of the canal project planned by a Chinese billionaire”, 27 Aug 2015

…The Rama-Kriols hold a communal title not only to the nine settlements where community members live, but also to the 4,843-square-kilometer territory where they fish, hunt, and farm…The massive Nicaragua Canal planned by…Hong Kong Nicaragua Development Group…is destined to wipe at least one Rama village off the map…The Rama-Kriol government claims that it yielded to pressure from the national government and only granted the permit after environmental consultants contracted by HKND and escorted by the military entered Rama territory, causing alarm within the communities…The case at the IACHR is probably the Rama’s best chance for meaningful international intervention…


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8 May 2016

Nicaragua: Inter-oceanic canal linked to land grabs, lack of transparency & consultation according to analyst

Author: Peter Costantini, Confidencial (Nicaragua)

“A Nicaraguan canal is not a “field of dreams””, 29 Apr 2016

…So far, the gestation of Nicaragua’s canal has been secretive, with little public elaboration of the business model, investors or active partners in the enterprise…The corruption behind the canal is “absolutely mind-boggling,” according to Rodrigue, author of a standard transport geography textbook.“It’s simply a land grab and a real estate project. That’s what they’re betting their money on.” The canal concession enables HKND to expropriate large areas of land for the canal and side projects, and requires compensation for current owners merely at assessed value – although more recently HKND has said it would pay a fair price for the expropriated properties...Many see the root of the problems in the initial failure of the Nicaraguan government to broadly involve citizens in vetting or approving the project…

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