MANAGUA — Nicaragua is a thin section of land between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans that is vulnerable to extreme weather events on either side. Hurricane Mitch devastated the country in 1999, killing 5,657 people and destroying 70 percent of the nation’s infrastructure.
Nicaragua became designated under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) following Hurricane Mitch, and Nicaraguans were allowed to take shelter in the United States until infrastructure in Nicaragua was back in operation. Since then, this status has been renewed multiple times after the country was racked by subsequent environmental disasters.
This year in early October, Tropical storm Nate passed through Costa Rica and Nicaragua and killed more than 20 people. The storm knocked out 19 systems supplying potable water to 50,000 families, an incident that caused damage to infrastructure in Nicaragua. Thankfully, the potable water systems were fixed relatively quickly since the damages were caused by power outages.
Nicaragua’s people are vulnerable to strong winds from either side, but are showing their resiliency and adaptability by dealing with these problems progressively. The strong winds that blew down trees and caused general destruction are being harnessed to produce clean energy. On the Amavo wind farm alone, 30 wind turbines pinwheel on Nicaraguan soil, helping generate 20 percent of the country’s electricity.
Climate Change and Renewable Energy
Like many small nations surrounded by water, climate change is a big issue for Nicaragua. They were among the few nations to initially reject the Paris Climate accord, saying the accord was too lenient on reducing emissions.
The Nicaraguan power grid is becoming increasingly reliant on clean energy. The country intends to have 90 percent of its primary energy supply come from renewable sources by 2020. The nation’s largest solar farm is currently under construction in Puerto Sandino.
German manufacturer RECOM commissioned the 12.5 MW solar power project. This is the first part of Nicaragua’s pipeline totaling 100 MW, and will be finished toward the end of 2018.
Beyond power, to develop infrastructure in Nicaragua requires roads. The government is aware of this need, and has begun multiple projects to improve highways and roads connecting villages. One such project is a highway to connect Siuna and Rosita — two of the three municipalities that make up the mining triangle in the north of the country.
Work on the highway may launch next year, and will include the completion of drainage and signaling works. This highway will be an upgrade to the 75 kilometer dirt road that currently connects Siuna and Rosita.
The Nicaraguan government is currently paving more than 100 kilometers of road in the area with hydraulic concrete. In addition, they also plan to construct four new bridges in the region.
Besides the road connecting Siuna and Rosita, Nicaragua’s transport and infrastructure minister Oscar Mujica signed a contract on November 4, 2017 to carry out works on a 32-kilometer-long section of the country’s Pan-American highway.
Construction is set to begin December 11th, and to be concluded in 18 months. According to authorities, 98,600 residents will benefit from the road work, signaling the increasingly upward trend of infrastructure improvement in Nicaragua.
– Sam Bramlett