Environmental Concerns Surround Panama Canal Expansion

<p>As the Central American country moves forward with plans to expand the width of its heavily-used canal, locals and scientists question whether a reforestation plan along canal banks will affect the area's supply of drinking water.</p>
July 10, 2007, 10am PDT | Nate Berg
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"The planners claim that the 5.25-billion-U.S.-dollar expansion, which will add two new three-chamber locks at either end of the canal, will have little impact on the surrounding environment. But local residents, mindful of the thousands forcibly evacuated during the original canal's construction, remain wary of such promises."

"The project commenced with reforestation of a buffer zone that hugs either side of the 51-mile (82-kilometer) waterway."

"Together with more efficient water pumps, the new forests are designed to keep the canal's locks full and flowing without the need for new reservoirs-even in the driest of years, according to designers."

"The new forest, meanwhile, will act as a sponge, storing rainfall during Panama's rainy season and slowly releasing it into the canal during the dry season, according to canal engineer Ilya Espino de Marotta."

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Published on Wednesday, June 27, 2007 in National Geographic
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