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NGO calls on Maersk to protect Nicaragua

NGO calls on Maersk to protect Nicaragua
Environmentalists fear for the future of Lake Nicaragua

An NGO in its native Denmark has called on Maersk to use its sizeable global influence to protect Nicaragua’s environment and indigenous peoples, as construction plans for the proposed interoceanic canal continue to ramp up.

Claus Kjaerby, Central America representative of Forests of the World, told the Guardian: “Maersk’s interests are being used as an argument for building the canal. This gives Maersk a unique opportunity to ensure that the project is not implemented at the expense of indigenous peoples’ rights and unique natural habitat.

“We urge Maersk to use this unique position to influence and stop these violations that would mar the canal and its users throughout its future.”

The HKND Group behind the plans hope to break ground on the construction of the US$50bn project in December and complete work by 2019. Many though have grave concerns about the detrimental impact the vast effort could have on the environment, not least Lake Nicaragua, the country’s largest source of fresh water, as well as indigenous people.

“The canal is to be built straight through the Rama and Kriol territory, fragmenting it into two parts,” said Claus Kjaerby. “It’s just like if someone wanted to build a bicycle trail through your garden and they do not consult with you.”

A spokesman for HKND said: “HKND will strictly comply with the principle of being legal, transparent and fair in implementing the project. HKND is committed to explore canal route area with care and adhere to international standards of environmental responsibility. Our aim is to make impacted communities and indigenous peoples better off and not worse off in terms of livelihoods and living standards, through the project.”

A Maersk spokesman said that in principle the company was pro infrastructure development, believing that expansion of industry and commerce in Latin America and the world is positive and can increase competitiveness.

“We do not have the information to evaluate the specific Nicaragua canal project,” he added.