Thursday, January 14, 2016

Indigenous People Refuse Nicaraguan Canal

The ill-conceived Nicaraguan Canal project has been on hold for some time and reports indicate that financial losses are slowing progress.  Backer Wang Jing is said to have loss a large percentage of his wealth in the recent Chinese stockmarket meltdown. Adding to financier's Wang Jing problems is the lack of cooperation from indigenous communities in the path of destruction. These communities complain they are being pressured to approve the project without sufficient information about the canal's consequences. Right now there is precious little information about biodiversity in the 278 kilometer footprint of the project and especially its effect on fresh water Lake Nicaragua. Scientists have criticized the quality of data in the 11,000 page Environmental and Social Impact Assessment.

The project has potent political backers in Nicaragua including former revolutionary, President Daniel Ortega, who sees the project as a means of pulling his country out of crippling poverty. But the indigenous leadership of the Rama y Kriol Territorial Government (GTR-K) are raising new alarms about the projects advisability. They say they are being pressured to sign a perpetual lease covering 263 square kilometers of land and sea by HKND Group, the canal builder.  They say the contract is supposed to be based on "free, prior, and informed consent", but its not. Nicaraguan law recognizes the inalienability of traditional lands of indigenous and ethnic communities.   According to some Nicaraguan legal experts Law 445 does not allow for a "perpetual lease" or sale of indigenous lands. No specific amount of money has mentioned by the government in exchange for the proposed lease. If the Canal is built as planned a deep water port will be built close to GTR-K territory, impacting their traditional way of life and natural resources.