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.