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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has urged the Nicaraguan government to annul the concession for the 276km Nicaragua interoceanic canal project granted to Chinese-backed infrastructure development firm HKND Group belonging to the Chinese investor Wang Jing.
The FIDH and the Nicaraguan centre for human rights (Cenidh) expressed their concerns in an official report entitled "Nicaragua: Impact of interoceanic canal concession on human rights. The resistance of rural communities".
The report explains how the canal concession was granted for 116 years despite the fact that Nicaraguan law prohibits water concessions from exceeding 30 years. Furthermore, the concession includes crossing Cocibolca Lake which is the biggest body of fresh water in Central America.
"It is unthinkable to sell off territory in this way. The government must backtrack," said FIDH president, Dimitris Christopoulos in a statement on the Cenidh website.
In addition, no tender was carried out for the project and none of the investment companies who are set to participate in the project have experience in this kind of work, states the FIDH report.
The report also outlines numerous human rights violations which could be caused by the development of the project, including the expropriation process, which fails to provide any administrative or judicial recourse to those affected.
FIDH claims that 30,000 to 120,000 small farmers would be forced to hand over property in a huge land grab, violating their rights and impoverishing the whole population. "Other reliable sources have also reported potential irreparable damage to the environment, not to mention the likely impact of the construction and operation of a new interoceanic canal on climate change," it adds.
Back in November 2015, the Nicaraguan government rubberstamped the project's environmental impact study, yet little in the way of physical works have been carried out since HKND launched construction in December 2014.
Besides a waterway, the initiative would involve the development of a deepwater port at each end of the canal, with an oil pipeline running alongside it, a dry canal for transportation of cargo via freight rail lines and a free trade zone at each end.
The required investment in the canal project is estimated at some US$50bn.