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Costa Rica finishes work to close artificial canal built by Nicaragua in disputed territory

April 8, 2015

Costa Rica successfully blocked an artificial canal that Nicaragua opened in 2013 in disputed territory near the mouth of the San Juan River, Costa Rica Foreign Affairs Minister Manuel González reported Wednesday.

The canal is one of several sources of an ongoing border conflict between Costa Rica and Nicaragua that’s scheduled for final hearings before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) next week.

González said the work to block the canal prevented major environmental damage that would have been virtually impossible to repair.

Read all our coverage of the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border dispute

The canal, if completed, would have channeled water from the San Juan River, which is in Nicaragua, into the Caribbean. The area is considered sensitive wetland habitat of international importance.

The repair work done by a 62-member Costa Rican environmental crew consisted of blocking the canal at a 19-meter wide spot by piling 900-kilo sand bags across the water in three rows, González told reporters.

The Foreign Affairs Minister reported that Nicaraguan military personnel observed the work from that country’s territory.

González expressed optimism about the upcoming hearings before the international court.

“We believe the legal and technical position (Costa Rica) has held for almost five years…is quite solid,” González said.

The conflict between the two neighbors erupted in 2010 when Costa Rica took Nicaragua to the ICJ, accusing it of having militarily invaded Costa Rican territory and caused environmental damage.

Nicaragua dismissed the allegation and, in turn, accused Costa Rica of violating its sovereignty and causing environmental damage to the San Juan River by building a road that runs parallel to its bank.

 

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