Nicaragua has filed suit against Costa Rica at the U. N. International Court of Justice, citing violations to national sovereignty and major environmental damages to its territory due to the construction of a new road along the south bank of the Río San Juan River.
Nicaragua contends that the construction work by its southern neighbor along most of the border area between the two countries is resulting in grave environmental consequences, according to a press release issued by the entity known as the World Court.
Nicaragua argues that “Costa Rica’s unilateral actions… threaten to destroy the San Juan de Nicaragua River and its fragile ecosystem, including the adjacent biosphere reserves and internationally protected wetlands that depend upon the clean and uninterrupted flow of the river for their survival.”
The action is yet another effort by Nicaragua to divert attention from its invasion of Costa Rican territory, which is the subject of another action at the World Court.
Among the damages listed by Nicaragua is the dumping of sediments in the river such as soil, uprooted vegetation and felled trees, which the government says are a danger to water quality, aquatic life – including several endangered species – and to rare flora and fauna on both sides of the river bank.
In addition, it states that the sediments will degrade the soil already devastated by deforestation due to agricultural and industrial developments in Costa Rica’s territory, adding that the impact of these is already being felt. “These works have already caused and will continue to cause economic damage,” Nicaragua said.
The Nicaraguan Government is requesting the court to declare that Costa Rica has breached its territorial integrity, as well as its obligation under international law and several environmental conventions to protect the environment and biodiversity in the region.
It is also requesting that the court declare that Costa Rica must restore and pay for all the damages and not undertake any further developments in the area without a cross-border environmental impact assessment, which is presented to Nicaragua for analysis and reaction.
Nicaragua stated in its proceedings that Costa Rica has repeatedly refused to give it appropriate information on the construction work it is undertaking and has denied any obligation to prepare and provide it with an assessment of the environmental impact in the area, which would allow for an evaluation of the work.
Nicaragua stressed that producing an assessment and presenting it to both governments is of utmost importance and added that it reserves the right to request provisional measures.
Costa Rica already has rejected the Nicaragua claims when they were put forth informally. The foreign ministry also issued a protest over the incursion by 15 Nicaraguan soldiers into Costa Rican territory near what is known as Punta Castillo. Costa Rica said the soldiers threatened a Fuerza Pública officer they encountered.
Costa Rica has stressed environmental damage in its action against Nicaragua due to the dredging of the Río San Juan and the efforts to build a new mouth for the river through Costa Rican territory. That case is due for a hearing in February at the World Court.
The road to which Nicaragua objects is being built, in part, to provide access to where Nicaragua has invaded.