San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Nicaragua Blames Costa Rica for Polluting Río San Juan

Costa Rica’s complaint against Nicaragua for allegedly causing environmental damages in the disputed border region could boomerang back on the Tico government in the International Court of Justice, according to President Daniel Ortega’s top environmental advisor.

Renowned environmentalist and Nicaraguan presidential advisor Jaime Incer claims Costa Rica – not Nicaragua – is mostly to blame for the deforestation along the border and the pollution of the San Juan River, which the Sandinista government is trying to clean through a controversial river-dredging operation.

Incer – the father of Nicaragua’s conservation movement and the 2007 award-winner of the National Geographic  Society’s Leadership Prize in Conservation – says that Costa Rica, which controls more than 60 percent of the San Juan watershed, is responsible for “80 percent of the contamination and sedimentation in the Río San Juan and Lake Cocibolca.”

Incer said Costa Rica’s Río Frío, Río San Carlos and Río Sarapiquí – all of which flow into the Río San Juan – are contaminating Nicaraguan waters with agrochemicals from banana and citrus plantations, as well as mud and sand runoff caused by “deforestation and uncontrolled development” on the Costa Rican side of the border.

“Costa Rica is using the Río San Juan as a gutter for its contaminants,” Incer told The Nica Times this week. “And they’ve been doing it for more than 50 years.”

Incer said Costa Rica has polluted an area of that extends some 300 kilometers from the southern shore of Nicaragua’s Lake Cocibolca, on the Pacific coast, all the way down the Río San Juan to the Caribbean Sea. He says the pollution has contributed to the disappearance of fish and other wildlife in both the river and great lake.

 The environmentalist said Nicaragua can prove with water samples from both sides of the border that the contamination is coming from Costa Rica, providing sufficient legal argument to demand payment for damages before the world court. Incer blasted Costa Rica’s green image as “totally false.”

“Costa Rica calls itself eco-friendly, but they’ve completely destroyed their ecology and they are continuing to destroy Nicaragua’s,” he said.

The presidential advisor said the truth will come out once Nicaragua presents its case before the court.

      We’re Working on it

After taking a beating in the press for letting Costa Rica beat Nicaragua to the world court, President Ortega this week assured Nicaraguans that his government is still working on presenting its legal case against Costa Rica.

Costa Rica’s complaint, filed before the court Nov. 18, alleges that Nicaragua has violated its sovereignty and destroyed parts of a protected wetland in attempts to build a cross-border canal from the San Juan River to Portillo Lagoon (TT Daily, Nov. 19).

Costa Rica filed its case more than two weeks after Ortega announced Nicaragua was preparing to take Costa Rica to the court.

The Nicaraguan media responded to Costa Rica’s first-strike speediness by accusing Ortega of dragging his feet and allowing Costa Rica to again put Nicaragua on the defensive after handing it a diplomatic defeat earlier this month in the Organization of American States (OAS), (TT, Nov. 12).

The Sandinista government has refused to recognize the Nov. 13 OAS resolution, which calls on Nicaragua to withdraw its troops from the disputed border region. The Sandinista government on Monday called on the OAS to “definitively close the debate it never should have started in the first place.”

The Nicaraguan government reiterated its position that the world court is the only competent authority to resolve the border issue.

Critics, however, are questioning why it is taking Nicaragua so long to file its case, after talking about it for weeks.

Ortega responded in a televised address Saturday night by saying that Nicaragua is taking its time to prepare a case that is “well established with all the judicial and legal elements that exist on this issue.”

He called Costa Rica’s rush to the court a “desperate move” based on the false information provided by “drug traffickers.”

“Unfortunately, Costa Rica has fallen in the trap of the narco-traffickers,” Ortega said.

    Ortega’s ‘Book of Truths’

Ortega also announced this week that his government is preparing an official “white book” publication aimed at debunking all of Costa Rica’s alleged lies behind the border conflict, which he claims was “created artificially by Costa Rica.”

Ortega said the working title of his government’s report is “The Truths that Costa Rica is Hiding.”

Ortega said the white book report will be filled with “great truths” about how Costa Rica has refused to demarcate the border, and “other great truths” debunking Costa Rica’s eco-friendly and peaceful image.

Ortega did not say when his book of “great truths” will be made public, or when Nicaragua’s complaint against Costa Rica would be ready to be filed before world court.

Non-governmental sources consulted by The Nica Times this week said Nicaragua’s case against Costa Rica might not be filed for another couple of months.

Ortega, too, alluded that the process could take a long time. He noted that Nicaragua took 18 months to file its response to Costa Rica’s 2005 complaint before the court over the Río San Juan. But he said Nicaragua was rewarded for its meticulousness in that instance.

“Four years later, in 2009, the court ruled in Nicaragua’s favor,” Ortega said.

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