Bolivia to take Chile to court over spring water dispute

Bolivia's President Evo Morales speaks during a ceremony commemorating the Dia del Mar (Day of the Sea) in La Paz, on March 23, 2016.
Bolivia's President Evo Morales speaks during a ceremony commemorating the Dia del Mar (Day of the Sea) in La Paz, on March 23, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

LA PAZ (AFP) - Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Saturday (March 26) that his country has decided to file suit against Chile at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over a water dispute.

Bolivia argues it owns the Silala spring waters originating in its southwest department of Potosi and that it is not being compensated for Chile's use of the water, which flow across their shared border.

Chile, however, argues that the waters constitute an international river.

"We have decided as a pacifist country to go to The Hague so that Chile respects our water in Silala," Morales said at a public event.

Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz said Saturday his country would file a counterclaim if Bolivia goes forward with the suit.

"If a suit materialises regarding use of the water from the Silala River at any time, Chile will file a counterclaim against Bolivia to safeguard our interests," Munoz said.

The move would mark the second legal action taken by Bolivia against Chile at the Netherlands-based court that oversees disputes between countries.

Last year, the ICJ agreed to take up a century-old dispute between the two nations in which La Paz is seeking to regain its former access to the Pacific Ocean.

Bolivia became landlocked after losing a four-year war against Chile at the end of the 19th century, forfeiting territory and its access to the sea.

After a number of fruitless negotiations with Santiago over the issue, La Paz lodged a complaint to the ICJ in April 2013.