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ICJ Declines to Issue Decision in Chile-Bolivia River Dispute

Hague-based UN court issues a ‘surprise’ judgement in Silala River case, saying Chile and Bolivia are in agreement.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has declined to issue a decision in an international dispute over the Silala River, one of several water-related issues that have spurred tensions between Chile and Bolivia.

Chile is in the middle of an historic, massive 13-year drought, and Bolivia is likewise experiencing parched conditions, as La Nina weather conditions return to the region for a third straight year, causing a shortage of rain.

But in its judgement on Thursday, the Hague-based, United Nations court said the two countries appeared to be in agreement about the river’s status as “an international watercourse”, subject to international law.

The judges urged the South American neighbours to work together on issues surrounding the frontier waterway, saying a “shared resource can only be protected through cooperation”.

The dispute over the Silala stretches back to 1999, when Bolivia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs addressed a statement to Chile that said the Silala lacked “any characteristic of a river, let alone of an international river of a successive course”.

The Bolivian government instead described the Silala as a wetland, originating from springs on the Bolivian side of the border. It asserted that the water’s flow had been created by means of “artificially enhanced” channels and draining mechanisms.

The dispute escalated in June 2016 when Chile filed a lawsuit calling on the international court to declare the Silala an international waterway, after Bolivia indicated it would charge for use of its waters.

Mining operations on the Chilean side of the border rely, in part, on the Silala’s waters, which flow through the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth.

Source : Aljazeera