San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica's case boosted by UN satellite images

A United Nations report released Monday seems to support Costa Rica’s case in a border dispute with neighboring Nicaragua. Opening statements start Tuesday at the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands.

The report released by UNITAR-UNOSAT, a U.N. environmental assessment body, compares satellite images of the Isla Calero during a time frame from 1979 to 2010. Titled “Morphological and Environmental Change Assessment: San Juan River Area (including Isla Portillos and Calero), Costa Rica,” the report details the recent environmental alteration to the region, while also alluding to potential effects of the river dredging.

“There is apparently an area of active land removal on a (bend) of the San Juan River approximately 400m to the south of the newly created channel,” the report read. “If this (land) removal continues, it could redirect the flow of San Juan approximately 175m to the west, likely increasing river flow velocity downstream; such an increase in water velocity could also have the effect of accelerating erosion along the newly created river channel to the north.”

The report stated that a morphological review of the area was conducted in 1979, 1986, 2005, and from 2007 to 2010. The images show that the area had been relatively stable during the last 30 years, with few indications of change until the late months of 2010.

“Based on an analysis of satellite imagery recorded on Nov. 19 and Dec. 14, 2010, there is strong evidence that a new river channel leading from the San Juan River to the Los Portillos lagoon was constructed between Aug. and Nov. 2010.”

The report of environmental alteration to the river region is expected to aid Costa Rica’s cause before the world court. Costa Rica hopes to prove Nicaragua’s destruction of wetlands within Costa Rican territory.

In response to the UNITAR-UNOSAT report, Costa Rican Foreign Minister René Castro posted on his Facebook page that “there aren’t rivers, nor have there ever been rivers between the San Juan and the Los Portillos lagoon on the Isla Calero (which again show that the statements made by [Edén] Pastora and [Nicaraguan] president [Daniel] Ortega are not based in reality).”

The UN report:

Follow for further coverage of the Costa Rica – Nicaragua case at the World Court

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