Indigenous Groups Challenge Proposed Nicaraguan Mega Canal

The Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal would be even larger than the Panama Canal, shown here. It would threaten both Nicaraguan wildlife and indigenous communities. Panama Canal Gatun Locks by Stan Shebs. CC BY-SA 3.0
The Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal would be even larger than the Panama Canal, shown here. It would threaten both Nicaraguan wildlife and indigenous communities. Panama Canal Gatun Locks by Stan Shebs. CC BY-SA 3.0

I have previously released two posts on the proposed Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal. This mega canal would cut through Nicaragua, surpassing even the Panama Canal in size. As such, it poses significant threats to jaguars and other Central American wildlife.

My earlier posts centered around the environmental risks associated with this canal: particularly the possibility that it could sever important jaguar travel routes. According to an article from Mongabay, this project raises social justice questions as well.

The Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal, which would be built by the Hong Kong-Based Nicaraguan Canal Development Company (HKND), would greatly affect Nicaraguan indigenous communities. Not only will the canal’s environmental impacts threaten their way of life, but representatives of the Rama-Kriol Territorial Government (GTR-K) claim they are being pressured into giving up 263 square kilometers of their territory.

Indigenous leaders say they are being urged to sign a contract which states the HKND asked for their consent to construct the canal. They claim this never happened, and that the agreement would constitute a perpetual lease of their lands (which is illegal according to Nicaraguan laws). The Nicaraguan government has not specified what indigenous peoples will receive in return, except for vague talk of employment opportunities.

In fact it is unclear what Nicaragua as a whole stands to gain from the canal. While the nation’s president has claimed it would lift Nicaragua out of poverty, policy experts are not convinced. It would also displace 27,000 people.

As a developing country, Nicaragua has every right to pursue projects that would genuinely benefit its citizens. But the costs of constructing the Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal appear to outweigh the potential gains. While the harm to jaguars could be mitigated with careful planning, the concerns raised by the GTR-K leadership cannot be ignored. This seems to be yet another case of indigenous peoples being cheated out of their lands, and there should be no tolerance for such maneuvers in the 21st century.

Click here to read Mongabay’s original article.

Previous Posts about the Canal:

Proposed Nicaraguan Canal Threatens Jaguars

More Information on the Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal

9 Thoughts

    1. Thanks for sharing this! I hope so too. Nicaragua needs development projects that will boost its economy, so I can understand the desire to build this canal. But the rights of indigenous people and the potential environmental impacts of this project need to be considered carefully.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I hope they will find a win-win solution with that. Usually, the indigenous people are at a losing end in this kind of battle…it happens anywhere in the world…history usually repeats itself…governments look at the short term value than the long term. I hope it will not happen to Nicaragua.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Great post. Not to sound defeatist or to discourage you but when ever I see things like this I tend to remember something I learnt a little while ago. In any battle where environment verses money…. Money wins. Only when we learn that short term fiscal success is act suicide will we see the real cost of projects like this one. Keep up the good work. Dan

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I admit that the prospects aren’t great. While this canal will definitely affect Nicaragua’s already threatened wildlife, particularly while it’s being constructed, experts have claimed there are ways to minimize that damage.

      But there’s no way to mitigate the human cost. I find it incredibly disheartening that even today indigenous peoples often aren’t respected. And of course my own country is one of the worst in this regard.


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