Costa Rica will not block Nicaragua’s plans to dredge the Río San Juan despite claiming that the project is severely underbudgeted and would reduce the flow of water in the river.
Based on a July 2009 ruling, in which the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Netherlands, examined the rights of both countries over the Río San Juan, Nicaragua has the right to dredge the river that marks the border between the two countries in order to restore the flow of water that existed in 1858, when a treaty over ownership of the river was signed.
“Nicaragua can dredge the Río San Juan as long as it does not cause damage in Costa Rican territory, (nor) can it affect Costa Rica’s right of navigation on the San Juan or its tributaries such as the Río Colorado,” Costa Rican Foreign Minister René Castro told members of the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega announced plans to dredge the river in July 2010 . His vision is to clear and deepen the riverbed to make the river suitable for ship traffic and eventually construct an interoceanic canal in Nicaragua.
Cabinet members in Nicaragua have assured Costa Rica the project will not generate problems in its territory.
“There is no reason to doubt the words of (Nicaragua’s) foreign minister or president,” Castro told legislators. “For us, this verbal guarantee is sufficient to assure us that it will not create damage in our national territory.”
However, based on studies of costs for similar dredging work at the Costa Rican port of Caldera and the Panama Canal,Castro called the numbers “poorly supported” and the projected budget of $7 million “rather modest for this type of work.”
He estimated that work would require $700,000 to $1 million per kilometer. Nicaragua is hoping to dredge 28 to 34 kilometers for $7 million.
While the project will not reduce the flow of water in the river on the scale that has been reported in some media, studies conducted at the request of Costa Rica show a 12 percent reduction of water flow, Castro said.
He said the Foreign Ministry “has been diligent in undertaking the necessary actions in order to ensure adequate protection of national interests. Costa Ricans can rest assured that the legal position of Costa Rica is well-supported, and we are confident that it will not be necessary to seek recourse in international courts to enforce the rights of our country.”