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

Ruta_Canal_Interoceanico_segun_diario_El_Confidencial

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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Article
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 ERM...to 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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Article
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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Article
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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

香港尼加拉瓜运河开发投资公司(HKND)正式向尼加拉瓜政府提交了其委托ERM公司[英国伊尔姆环境资源管理咨询公司]完成的尼加拉瓜运河项目环境与社会影响评估报告(简称“环评报告”)。该报告共分十四卷,对修建横跨中美洲的大型航运通道将会带来的环境、社会影响进行了研究...虽然这份报告并未向大众公开,但ERM和HKND的领导及有关部门都坚称运河项目是安全可行的。他们还为这份环评报告的质量做担保,HKND和尼加拉瓜政府称此报告对工程的实施至关重要...ERM所采用的数据,以及其在此基础之上对运河项目潜在危害做出的分析并非如尼加拉瓜政府和HKND所宣称的那般无懈可击...ERM将15位环境科学家和项目专家邀请到迈阿密对这份环评报告中的四个章节进行了为期两天的审阅工作...专家组在当时就已经指出了这份环评报告中存在着严重问题...他们认为这份报告中的许多结论都是“站不住脚的”,“难以令人信服的”,甚至是“错误且不切实际的”...

总部位于伦敦的ERM主要合伙人在邮件中这样回应道:“如您所知,此次的专家组评审活动其实是由ERM发起的。我们本不需要这样做,但我们相信这样庞大的一项工程是需要进行这样深层次的研究。ERM很感谢专家组提出的意见,我们在《环境与社会影响评估报告》(环评报告)中也就这些问题进行了一一解答。我们认为环评报告内容严谨,客观地评估了运河项目将会带来的影响。希望贵方在阅读环评报告(或是执行摘要部分)之前不要先下结论。”...在[另一]份回应中,ERM承认在研究中确实存在着专家组指出的工作疏漏,并称ERM已经对部分分析结果进行了修订...ERM称,由于HKND要求其在两年之内完成环评报告,因此在很多情况下,研究人员没有足够的时间来进行充分的数据采集...

尼加拉瓜政府并没有披露ERM的环评报告,目前看来也没有意愿公开这份文件。然而专家组却建议政府向大众公开这份长达14卷的环评报告...[参见HKND早前提供的回应]

 

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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

香港尼加拉瓜運河開發投資公司(HKND)正式向尼加拉瓜政府提交了其委託ERM公司[英國伊爾姆環境資源管理諮詢公司]完成的尼加拉瓜運河項目環境與社會影響評估報告(簡稱“環評報告”)。該報告共分十四卷,對修建橫跨中美洲的大型航運通道將會帶來的環境、社會影響進行了研究...雖然這份報告並未向大眾公開,但ERM和HKND的領導及有關部門都堅稱運河項目是安全可行的。他們還為這份環評報告的質量做擔保,HKND和尼加拉瓜政府稱此報告對工程的實施至關重要...ERM所採用的數據,以及其在此基礎之上對運河項目潛在危害做出的分析並非如尼加拉瓜政府和HKND所宣稱的那般無懈可擊...ERM將15位環境科學家和項目專家邀請到邁阿密對這份環評報告中的四個章節進行了為期兩天的審閱工作...專家組在當時就已經指出了這份環評報告中存在著嚴重問題...他們認為這份報告中的許多結論都是“站不住腳的”,“難以令人信服的”,甚至是“錯誤且不切實際的”...

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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Article
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, Smithsonian.com

"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…

 Rama_Cay_Nicaragua_Credit_MaSii

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Article
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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