San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Environment Ministry launches ‘Operation Sovereignty’

A team of GPS-lugging experts sent by the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET) and the Costa Rica Electricity Institute set out last weekend to survey environmental damage along a road built beside the Río San Juan, which forms the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

The group, lead by incident commander Randall Campos, went into the jungle in the areas where Costa Rica’s contentious new “Sovereignty Road” now stands. Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla declared the road a national emergency last year, which allowed it to be built without going through environmental-impact reviews to the protestations of environmentalists from both the Costa Rican and Nicaraguan sides of the river. Chinchilla’s administration said that completing the road would benefit thousands of residents of the remote northeast Caribbean region of Costa Rica – many of whom can only reach their communities by boat.

The group spent the weekend trudging through jungle and wetlands in areas around the construction of the 150-kilometer road. They examined areas of construction along the eastern reaches of the road, according to a MINAET report, to locate impacted sites and to map, using GPS devices, areas in which environmental rehabilitation efforts can begin.

MINAET will use the information collected in this exploratory expedition to allocate resources for future efforts to mitigate the impacts of the road, the report said. The ministry has indicated it will send teams of experts accompanied by volunteers to carry out mitigation projects along the road this month.

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