“The survey is a major step in the construction development process and supports pre-works planning, design and engineering for the canal and infrastructure," John Murray, senior adviser for HKND Group said.
The survey will feature “aerial mapping of topography, photography and geophysical and geological data” and will rely on advanced Precise Point Positioning (PPP) technology to collect data. It expected to start in September 2015 and to be completed by March 2016.
Data to challenge environmental controversy
The ambitious Nicaragua Canal project aims to provide an alternative to the Panama Canal expansion and has largely been bankrolled by chinese investment to date. The canal is expected to be completed by 2019 and accommodate an estimated 5,100 ships per year.
Construction on the 278 km canal started in January this year with backing from the government but opponents have decried the fact that the concession was awarded without a bidding process or any feasibility, socio-economic or environmental impact assessments.
Environmental scientists have added further opposition with the publication of a paper that claims the development will irreparably damage ecosystems and cause “significant environmental and social impairments”.
“Of particular concern are: damage to Lake Cocibolca, a unique freshwater tropical lake and Central America’s main freshwater reservoir; damage to regional biodiversity and ecosystems; and socio-economic impacts,” Pedro Alvarez, one of the 21 co-signed authors of the paper published by the American Chemical Society.
It is partially to tackle these claims that the CSA survey will use high precision airborne laser radar to detect clearly the actual topography and surface water.
“When it is applied to the section of Lake Nicaragua, the lakebed topography of 8 to 10 meters below surface can be displayed with detail. This aerial geophysical prospecting technology can also detect materials of 150 to 200 meters below ground level, including their hardness and 3D distributions,” Murray explained.
The survey will cover a 10 km-wide area along the 276 km proposed canal route alignment connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific and the 2km-wide circumference of Lake Nicaragua. The data acquired will be formatted, processed and interpreted by experts to produce high resolution mapping for 3D topography, 1:2,000 contours, 3D geology, surface vegetation and 3D imagery.